How should I prepare for my first appointment after my loved one has died?
After scheduling an appointment, I will ask you to gather many of your loved one's documents and bring them with you. If the decedent had a Will and/or a Trust, you will need to bring those documents, along with any amendments (or codicils). Sometimes there may be multiple Wills and/or Trusts so you will need to bring all of them. Other items you should bring include the certified copy of the death certificate (if you have received it yet); statements for bank accounts, brokerage accounts, retirement accounts; insurance policies & stock certificates; pink slips; deeds and/or information about the real estate owned by the decedent; information about any other assets, such as jewelry, antiques or collectibles; creditor/debt information such as the credit card statement, invoice or bill; and the contact information for beneficiaries or heirs.
Where is the Probate Court in Orange County?
Probate, Guardianship, Conservator/Mental Health and Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Abuse hearings are heard at the Central Justice Center. The Central Justice Center of Superior Court of California, County of Orange is located at 700 Civic Center Drive, Santa Ana, CA 92701. I prefer to park in the lot closest to Civic Center Drive and N. Flower St. rather than deal with the parking structures. I park as close to the front of the building as possible. There you will find some steps that bring you up to Civic Center Dr. and the court's entrance is to your right. You can enter the lot from N. Flower St. There is a fee to park in the lot but almost everywhere you park in Downtown Santa Ana charges to park. Allow yourself some extra time to get into the building since there is a security check point and often just one machine is operating. One last tip: you can bring in a bottle of water but no other food or beverages (but there is a cafeteria).
Why do I want to avoid probate?
The number one reason why you may want to avoid probate is to avoid the costs associated with it. In California, the costs of probate and the associated fees are based on the value of the estate (liabilities are not taken into consideration when the value of the estate is determined per the Probate Code). In my example above, the probate fees would be based on the $825,000 fair market value of the home plus the value of any other assets in probate.