There are several situations where estate assets must go through the process of probate before they can be distributed. Those situations include, but not limited to:
- When someone dies without an estate plan of any kind;
- When someone dies with a will in place; and
- When someone dies with a completed estate plan, but the plan has failed because it was not maintained and kept updated.
If one of these situations occurs after someone’s death, their estate assets must go through a court-supervised procedure known as probate before they can be distributed. The process helps to ensure the legal transfer of assets from the deceased to the rightful heirs or beneficiaries.
In California, the probate process is generally frustrating for the surviving family members, time consuming, needlessly expensive and public, meaning all the decedent’s affairs are open to the public.
Probate is necessary to:
- Prove the validity of the will;
- Appoint someone to manage the estate (the “administrator” if there is no will or the “executor” if there is a will);
- Provide notice to heirs named in the will, or if there is no will, to statutory heirs;
- Inventory and appraise the estate property;
- Payment of estate debt to creditors;
- Sale of estate assets;
- Payment of estate taxes; and
- Distribute the property as direct by the will or by the state law if there is no will.
The easiest way to avoid the probate process is to properly plan ahead and have properly drafted and funded a living trust. At Cheever Law, APC, we design estate plans that are customized that allow families to avoid the probate process entirely.
If you are now in a situation where you must go through the probate court to finalize the estate of a loved one, we are here to help with the compassion and understanding for the loss you are suffering. We strive to make the California probate process as smooth and efficient as possible. Additional information on the probate process can be found on our FAQ page.