What is Probate?
Probate is the legal process of collecting, organizing and distributing a person’s assets and estate after they have passed away. At its essence, probate is the handling of a person’s affairs, such as paying off debts or bills and distributing the remaining assets to heirs and beneficiaries.
Probate begins with a court petition to open the proceedings and assign a person to execute the wishes and instructions of the deceased in accordance with California probate law. Interested parties will then receive official notices regarding the deceased person’s assets and any hearings to resolve the matter.
The notices will typically be sent to family members, heirs, and any third parties who the deceased may have owed money. After all the estate’s debts are paid, the remainder of the property and assets will be distributed to the proper heirs, while a petition to discharge is filed and the estate proceeding closed.
What Goes to Probate?
Any assets that are still in the deceased person’s name are required to pass through probate even if a will was left behind. Assets like bank accounts, other investments, homes, real estate property, vehicles or anything else with a title of ownership. Only a probate court can take a deceased person’s name off a title and transfer it to another person.
The assets that avoid probate are joint accounts that transfer to the surviving owner, assets with a valid beneficiary designation, and assets that were placed into a trust before a person’s death. Of course, there are always exceptions to the rules and even those assets do not always avoid the probate process.
How To Avoid Probate
The simplest way to avoid probate is by forming a living trust and transferring ownership of all assets to the trust. The document allows for the simple transfer of property to beneficiaries once the primary owner passes away and it may be the strongest way to protect your assets while living.
Unfortunately, if one of your family members or friends died without a living trust, a will is not enough to keep their assets out of court. However, there are still many ways in which an experienced attorney can speed up the probate process and make sure the deceased person’s final wishes and instructions are followed.
Free Probate Consultation
At Elder Law Services of California, we pride ourselves in helping clients throughout difficult times. If a loved one has recently passed away and your family is forced to go through the probate process to settle their estate and distribute assets and belongings that were left behind, our team is here to help you through the process. Elder Law Services offers a FREE consultation with one of our dedicated and experienced probate attorneys where we meet with you personally to assess the situation and figure out how our team can help guide your family through the court system with confidence and ease.
In order to get the most out of your FREE consultation, you should know the following:
- Did your loved one draft a will? If so, be sure to bring it.
- Who is the executor of the will? You? Or someone else?
- What assets will be in probate? e.g real estate, financial accounts, stocks & bonds, etc.
- Outstanding debts of deceased.
- Names and address of immediate family members.
If you are in the process of going through probate or will be soon, give us a call at ✆ (855) ELDER LAW or (855) 353-3752 for a FREE consultation. Our team is dedicated to helping to ease the pain of losing a loved one by handling the complicated, stressful and tedious issues of probate. We look forward to working with you soon.