Newport Beach Probate Attorney

Newport Beach Probate Attorney
Newport Beach Probate Attorney

The probate process in California is known for being lengthy and complex. It is often difficult for survivors to deal with. If a business partner or family member passes without an estate plan in place, their estate is likely going to go through probate court. This can take months and cost an extensive amount of time and money. Unfortunately, the probate court is very difficult to navigate without an experienced probate attorney.

Dealing with probate after you have lost a loved one can be overwhelming. You may be unsure of what to expect or how to properly administer an estate. Working with a probate lawyer can make this process easier for you.

Choosing the Right California Probate Lawyer

The more assets there are in an estate, the more essential it is to hire a professional. For larger estates, probate will take much longer. There is also likely to be more disputes and greater contention over the contents of the estate. You need to be sure that the probate process is done correctly and as quickly as possible.

It is important that an estate be administered according to the decedent’s wishes. Qualified attorneys can work with you to ensure that occurs. The attorneys at Ross Law Group, APC, have over 21 years of experience working in probate and estate administration law. We have the legal knowledge necessary to guide you through a probate case. Our firm can ensure that legal deadlines are met, and the administration is completed in a timely manner. We can help you with all aspects of the probate process, such as:

  • Asset distribution
  • Asset valuation and inventory
  • Formal probate processes and administration
  • Accurately following the layout of an estate plan
  • Determining the ideal course of action if there is no estate plan
  • Beneficiary and inheritance rights for wills or trusts
  • Debt payment
  • Negotiation of creditor claims
  • Mediation of estate disputes

We can also help with estate and probate litigation if necessary. Our attorneys can ensure that wills and trusts are properly handled by executors and trustees.

What Is Probate?

The probate process is overseen by the court. These are the procedures that determine how a person’s assets will be delegated and how debts will be paid after their death. If the decedent has a will, the assets will likely be distributed to listed beneficiaries according to that will. When there is no will, the process of intestate succession is used to provide assets to heirs. The court may also make decisions about the estate when there is no will.

An estate includes assets like:

  • Savings Accounts
  • Real Estate
  • Vehicles
  • Expensive Art
  • Businesses
  • Retirement Accounts
  • Investments
  • Insurance Policies

It also includes debts like mortgages and loans.

When these assets pass through probate, they will likely be subject to greater taxes. Probate can often prevent loved ones of the deceased from receiving their assets quickly after death. Your family must also pay court and legal fees while having the assets taxed. These are reasons why many people try to avoid probate court.

How Long Does Probate Take?

Probate in California can take anywhere from six months to over a year. Depending on the estate and what estate planning was done, the amount of time probate takes can change immensely. The less estate planning a person does before they die, the more work there is to do in probate. You will likely need executors, attorneys, accountants, and a full valuation of the entire estate. This makes probate expensive as well as time-consuming.

If the decedent has a will, probate may take less time. If they created a trust in addition to a will, their estate could skip probate entirely. In some cases, however, a will or trust is found to be invalid, and the probate process is still necessary. Both wills and trusts provide an outline of how to distribute a person’s assets, but only trusts have the power to pass assets without probate. Executors oversee the administration of wills, and trustees oversee the administration of trusts. Executors and trustees often decide to work with an estate administration attorney. This is because the process requires a clear understanding of complicated probate laws.

Is Probate Required for All Estates Without Wills?

Probate is not always a requirement if a person has a smaller estate. If a deceased person’s total assets are valued at less than $166,250, there are simplified procedures to transfer their estate to their loved ones. In these cases, probate is not required. However, if an estate is valued higher and has no trust or executor, probate is required. This amount may seem high to some. However, an estate includes all assets, such as cars and homes, and these can add up quickly.

Why Do I Need a Newport Beach Probate Attorney?

When you are dealing with the loss of a loved one, it can be very hard to handle your grief, along with the legal complexities of probate. If your loved one did not work with an estate planning attorney or professional, a lot must be done to administer their estate.

For those who are dealing with their own day-to-day workload and the grief of loss, adding legal deadlines, costs, and responsibilities to that is often more than they can handle. Hiring a probate administration lawyer can reduce the workload. They can also help you feel confident in the accuracy of the administration. A probate attorney can help you:

  • Filing and validating a will
  • Gaining court approval for executor appointment
  • Resolving will contests
  • Cataloging and valuing assets and debts
  • Paying debts and handling creditor claims
  • Distributing assets to beneficiaries and heirs
  • Resolving disputes through mediation or litigation
  • Liquidating property
  • Preparing the final inventory, closing documents, and closing the estate

A probate administration attorney understands the intricacies of the probate process. They can make sure everything is done right.

What Is the Role of an Executor?

A person who is named the executor of a will, or personal representative of an estate, is responsible for several parts of the probate process. Among other duties, they must:

  • File all necessary petitions with the probate court.
  • Notify interested parties, such as heirs and creditors.
  • Settle debt.
  • Inventory assets.
  • Sell and distribute assets.

Many executors or representatives accept the role without realizing the complex legal and financial responsibilities that come with it. Executors should know that if they feel unqualified to handle these duties, they need to hire professionals, such as a probate attorney, accountant, or valuator. Executors have a fiduciary duty to heirs in the will. Both executors and representatives have a duty to the estate. Any failures or mishandling of the estate could lead to litigation.

The Probate Process in California

The general steps of California’s probate process include:

  1. The executor or administrator files a death certificate and a petition for probate. They may also decide to hire an attorney to do so.
  2. If there is no will, or if the will has no executor, an executor or personal representative must be named. Those close to the deceased will want to discuss legal and probate options with an attorney when there is no will.
  3. Beneficiaries, or heirs named in the will, and creditors of the deceased are all notified so that formal claims can be filed.
  4. A probate hearing occurs. The hearing determines the validity of the will. It also assigns the executor or representative to manage the contents if one was not named in the will.
  5. The representation must catalog all assets and liabilities. They must then ensure that they are properly valued. This can also be done with the help of a probate attorney.
  6. The executor and/or probate administration attorney begin the process of paying debts to creditors and distributing assets to beneficiaries. This can take anywhere from six months to several years.
  7. The remaining assets are distributed to those with valid claims, those stated in the will, or those named by the court.
  8. A report is filed with the court to verify the accounting, and the estate can then be closed.

Probate becomes longer the more assets and less estate planning a loved one has. Wills that have a small number of assets and beneficiaries are more manageable than those with dozens of specific beneficiaries.

What Assets Are Subject to Probate?

The probate process applies to assets owned solely by the decedent. It may not apply to all assets in an estate if the decedent took certain estate planning measures. Often, the most effective way to keep assets out of probate is to set up an estate plan before you die. Property that is in a trust or jointly owned is not subject to probate court.

If you create a trust, but a beneficiary passes before you do, the assets meant to be transferred to that beneficiary may enter probate court. This is why it is an essential part of estate planning to list one or two alternate beneficiaries in addition to your primary beneficiary. This can avoid subjecting assets to probate. Keeping your estate plan updated often, especially after major life events, can also prevent this.

Creating a will can determine where assets are going to be placed. However, it does not keep assets out of probate. Wills are more likely to have their validity questioned than trusts. When estate planning, many people will have their larger assets in a trust. They will then create a will for smaller assets or assets that they are unable to transfer to a trust before they die.

Assets subject to probate include:

  • All Separate Property: This is any property gained before marriage or inherited during marriage. This includes homes, vehicles, other real estate, furniture, household items, art, jewelry, stocks, investments, bank accounts, and intellectual property.
  • One Half of Community Property: If the decedent’s spouse is still living, a spousal property petition may be appropriate to avoid probate.

Assets Not Subject to Probate

There are strategies you can employ in estate planning to keep your assets out of probate court. This can ensure less hassle for your loved ones. Assets that are shared property can be moved out of probate. Ways to transfer assets outside of probate court include:

  • Right of Survivorship: If shared property between spouses operates under a legal right of survivorship, or a spousal property petition is made, then shared assets do not enter probate. When one spouse dies, the surviving spouse will receive the property and become the sole owner.
  • Establish a Trust: When you create a revocable living trust, you can place assets that you want to avoid probate in the trust. Revocable trusts allow you to change and update the trust if circumstances change. This can include the death of a beneficiary or an increase in assets. You can determine how you want assets distributed. After your death, the trustee will delegate assets according to your wishes outside of probate.
  • A Pay on Death (POD) Account: This is a type of bank account that can have designated beneficiaries. When you die, the account avoids probate and is transferred to the beneficiary.
  • Retirement Accounts: Many types of retirement accounts avoid probate court if a beneficiary is designated. Just like trusts and wills, it is smart to have an alternate beneficiary to your primary beneficiary.

For these methods to effectively avoid probate, they must be done correctly. If you fail to properly transfer assets or forget to include certain assets in your estate planning, your loved ones must still go through probate.

How Much Does Probate Cost?

The cost of probate depends on several factors, including:

  • The number and amount of assets in an estate
  • The number of beneficiaries in a trust or will
  • Whether disputes and litigation are part of the probate process

It is always important to discuss attorney fees with a potential probate administration attorney. You want to be sure that you can afford an attorney’s services throughout the entire probate process.

Ross Law Group, APC: Your Experienced Newport Beach Probate Attorneys

If you are struggling with the probate process after the loss of a loved one, a skilled attorney can help you work through the procedures. Making mistakes in the probate process can cost you a lot of money and time. If your loved one passed without even a will, the probate process can be incredibly overwhelming. We can assist you whether you are a beneficiary, an heir, or need to be made the personal representative of a loved one’s estate. We want to help you get through this difficult time. We can ensure that you understand each step of the process. Contact Ross Law Group, APC, for legal counsel.

Practice Areas

Trust & Estate Litigation
Trust &
Estate Litigation


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