If you have recently lost a loved one, it may seem overwhelming or nearly impossible to think about what happens to their estate and assets. Attorney Susan B. Geffen understands how delicate yet important the legal process can be when you are also grieving. She is an experienced Probate Lawyer California who can help you protect your loved one’s assets and ensure everything is in order. Without a skilled probate lawyer, the distribution of assets and estate could create unnecessary stress and even lead to issues for titled property such as vehicles, business interests, and real estate.
What is Non-Contested Probate
Non-contested probate refers to the legal process of administering a deceased person’s estate when there are no disputes or challenges among the heirs or beneficiaries of the estate. In other words, everyone who has a claim to the assets in the estate agrees on how the assets should be distributed, and there are no objections to the validity of the will (if there is one).
During a non-contested probate, the court oversees the distribution of the assets according to the terms of the will or, if there is no will, according to state law. The executor of the will (or the administrator of the estate, if there is no will) manages the assets and debts of the deceased, pays any outstanding debts, and distributes the remaining assets to the heirs or beneficiaries.
Non-contested probate is generally quicker and less expensive than contested probate, which is the legal process when there are disputes or challenges to the administration of the estate.
What is the Probate Process in California?
Probate is the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person, including distributing their assets and settling their debts. In California, the probate process can be a lengthy and complex procedure that involves several steps, including the following:
Filing the Petition for Probate
The first step in the probate process is to file a petition for probate with the Superior Court in the county where the deceased person lived. The petition will ask the court to appoint a personal representative (executor or administrator) to manage the estate.
Notice to Heirs and Beneficiaries
The personal representative must send a notice of the probate to all heirs and beneficiaries of the deceased person. This notice will inform them of their rights in the probate process.
Inventory and Appraisal
The personal representative must prepare an inventory of all the assets and debts of the estate and have them appraised by a qualified appraiser.
Payment of Debts and Taxes
The personal representative must pay all debts and taxes owed by the estate before any assets can be distributed to the heirs and beneficiaries.
Distribution of Assets
Once all debts and taxes have been paid, the personal representative can distribute the remaining assets of the estate to the heirs and beneficiaries according to the terms of the will or California law if there is no will.
Closing the Estate
Once all assets have been distributed, the personal representative can close the estate by filing a final accounting with the court and obtaining a discharge from their duties.
It is important to note that the probate process can be time-consuming, expensive and stressful without the help of an experienced probate lawyer to guide you through the process. Attorney Susan B. Geffen is equipped to help lessen the burden of legal matters after death.
How a Probate Attorney Helps with Assets
While all the assets of the deceased don’t have to go through probate, it is usually a good idea for estates to go through probate to avoid future liability. Attorney Susan B. Geffen helps clients understand the difference between probate assets and non-probate assets.
Probate assets are assets that are subject to the probate process after a person passes away. These assets include:
- Assets that are solely owned by the deceased person without a beneficiary designation, such as a bank account or real estate.
- Assets owned by the deceased person with other people as tenants in common, meaning each owner owns a distinct share that will pass to their heirs or beneficiaries through probate.
- Assets that are payable to the deceased person’s estate, such as a life insurance policy or retirement account without a designated beneficiary.
Non-probate assets, on the other hand, are assets that pass outside of the probate process and go directly to the designated beneficiary or joint owner upon the death of the owner. These assets include:
- Assets with a beneficiary designation, such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and payable-on-death bank accounts.
- Assets held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, such as real estate or bank accounts.
- Assets held in a trust, which can allow for the transfer of assets outside of the probate process.
It is important to understand the distinction between probate and non-probate assets, as it can affect the distribution of assets after death and the probate process. Our California probate lawyer can help you properly designate beneficiaries and structure assets, which may ultimately allow you to minimize the time and expense of the probate process.
What Happens If the Deceased Had Assets In Multiple States Besides California?
If the deceased had assets in multiple states besides California, it can complicate the probate process, and it may be necessary to open a separate probate case in each state where the deceased owned assets.
Each state has its own laws regarding probate, and the probate process can vary significantly from state to state. Some states may require a more extensive probate process than others, which can make the process more time-consuming and costly.
If the deceased had a will, it is important to determine whether the will is valid in each state where the deceased owned assets. Some states have different requirements for wills, and a will that is valid in one state may not be valid in another.
If the deceased had a trust, it may be possible to avoid the probate process in some states by transferring assets to the trust during the deceased person’s lifetime. However, this will depend on the specific terms of the trust and the laws of each state where the deceased owned assets.
Attorney Susan B. Geffen is familiar with probate law in multiple states to ensure that such cases within the probate process are handled correctly and efficiently. She can help you navigate the complex legal requirements and ensure that your loved one’s assets are distributed according to their wishes.
Why Is It Important to Close Probate Once Everything Is Complete?
It is important to close probate once everything is complete because it legally ends the administration of the deceased person’s estate. Closing probate means that the assets have been distributed to the beneficiaries, any outstanding debts or taxes have been paid, and the executor or administrator has fulfilled their duties.
Some reasons why it is important to close probate include:
- Protecting the executor or administrator: Once probate is closed, the executor or administrator is released from any further liability related to the estate. This means that they cannot be sued or held responsible for any issues that arise after the estate is closed.
- Clearing title to real estate and other assets: Closing probate also helps clear title to any real estate or other assets owned by the deceased person. This is important for beneficiaries who want to sell or transfer the assets.
- Distributing assets to beneficiaries: Once probate is closed, the assets can be distributed to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the will or state law. This ensures that the beneficiaries receive their rightful share of the estate.
- Avoiding ongoing expenses: Keeping probate open can result in ongoing expenses, such as attorney fees and court costs. Closing probate can help reduce these expenses and bring finality to the administration of the estate.
Overall, closing probate is important because it brings finality to the administration of the estate, protects the executor or administrator, clears title to assets, distributes assets to beneficiaries, and avoids ongoing expenses.
Consult a Talented Non-Contested Probate Lawyer in Los Angeles
If you are burdened by the probate process ahead of you after your loved one has passed away, let Attorney Susan B. Geffen help. Call our Los Angeles legal office today to schedule your consultation regarding your probate case in California.