Probate Explained

What is probate?

Probate is a court-supervised process that oversees the distribution of a deceased person's assets. Probate can be broken down into three basic steps: (1) the gathering of the assets of the deceased; (2) paying the deceased's debts, taxes and expenses from those assets; and (3) then changing title of the assets according the decedent's wishes, if there is a Will (or if there wasn't a Will, according to California law). 

Estates over $150,000 must be probated

Currently, the California Probate Code requires an estate that is worth over $150,000 to be probated if a court order is needed to change the title of the assets. So, if your loved one did not create an estate plan and left property in his/her name at the time of death, the law requires a probate.

Probate cases are taken on contingency

Fortunately, the executor, executrix, or personal representative does not have to pay for the costs of probate. Actually, they can get paid for doing the work. Neither the estate's representative nor attorney hired by the estate's representative will get paid until the end of the case. Attorney's fees and costs related to the probate are reimbursed only after the court approves them, so the beneficiaries do not have to advance the costs of the probate while waiting for their inheritance.

If you are named as the executor, executrix, or personal representative in a Will, it is possible that you are going to discover that this is a not an easy job. It is certainly not a job that cannot be taken lightly. If you want a diligent and compassionate attorney who can guide you through this arduous and complicated process, Attorney Shawna Murray is available to help ease the burden.

What type of costs are included in probate?

Here is a partial list of who or what gets paid during the proceedings: 

  • the probate court
  • the local newspaper
  • the probate attorney
  • the personal representative or executrix
  • an appraiser
  • a tax consultant or CPA
  • the surety bond company

What type of assets do not need to be probated?

Generally, the following assets do not need to be probated:

  • Payable on death/transfer on death accounts
  • Property held as community property or in joint tenancy
  • Property transferring with a payable on death deed
  • Life Insurance with named individuals as beneficiaries
  • IRAs, pensions and other retirement plans with named beneficiaries
  • Assets titled in the name of a revocable living trust
  • Vehicles

Informal Probate Services

Even without the need for a formal probate, you may want assistance transferring assets in a small estate. California law has various laws about handling modest estates. If the decedent has assets that do not fall into the categories previously listed there are some court documents may that need to be filed. Such services can be handled on a flat fee basis.

My Mission

I am devoted to making estate planning as accessible, efficient and personalized as possible. This way individuals and families are motivated to express their estate planning goals and loved ones do not have to deal with the disastrous fallout from a lack of planning.

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Copyright © 2018 Shawna Murray Law

Shawna Murray is licensed to practice law within the State of California. The information on this website is attorney advertising and has been created for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice nor does it predict the outcome of your case. An attorney-client relationship is formed only after we sign a written client services agreement.