Protect Your Assets With The Help of Our Probate Attorneys

Serving San Joaquin, Ventura, and Northern Los Angeles Counties

When a person passes away, his or her money and property are distributed to his or her heirs according to the plan. In the absence of an estate plan, a decedent’s assets will be distributed through the process of probate, which can be challenging for an individual to manage without expert guidance.

This is a difficult time for anyone who has experienced the passing of a loved one or friend. Our staff understands that this is not just a legal matter for you, but can also be a distinctly personal experience that can make the legal aspects of the process seem daunting.

At Willbanks & Wood, you’ll have the assistance of experienced probate lawyers throughout the probate process.

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Why You May Need a Probate Lawyer

The California probate process can be complicated, making it important to have an experienced California probate lawyer on your side. A probate attorney can assist you with a variety of probate tasks, including identifying and gathering probate assets, obtaining appraisals of the decedent’s property, and ensuring that all documents required by the probate Court are filed properly and in a timely manner. In addition, estate executors and administrators in California have a responsibility to protect the best interests of estate beneficiaries. An executor or administrator who is found to be in breach of this duty, even unintentionally, could be held personally liable for any resulting losses. Therefore, if you have been named the executor or administrator of an estate, it is critical that you research probate law firms and consult with an experienced attorney before beginning the probate process.

The probate process in California generally involves the following steps:

  • A petition and last will and testament, if applicable, are filed with the Court in the county where the decedent lived.
  • The Court determines who the executor or administrator of the estate will be.
  • The executor or administrator identifies the estate’s heirs and beneficiaries.
  • The executor or administrator secures, inventories, and values all known assets for the probate Court.
  • Creditors of the estate are notified by mail or by publication in the local newspaper.
  • The executor or administrator pays all claims and files and pays all outstanding taxes.
  • The executor or administrator requests that the estate be closed.
  • The executor or administrator distributes all remaining assets to the heirs of the estate.

The Role of an Executor or Administrator of an Estate

An executor is someone named by a deceased person in his or her will as the individual appointed to serve as the legal representative of his or her estate. An executor is entitled to receive payment from the estate for his or her services. An administrator, on the other hand, is appointed by the California probate Court when a person dies without a will. The administrator is chosen from a list of people who had relationships with the decedent as established by California law. An administrator is entitled to receive payment from the estate for his or her services. Executors and administrators in California have many duties, including taking inventory of estate assets, communicating with creditors and taxing authorities, paying debts and taxes, making payments for various services, and distributing estate assets to beneficiaries.

How Our Probate Attorneys Can Help You

If you need assistance with the probate process in California, our probate lawyers are here to help. As experienced probate professionals, we can help you:

  • Collect life insurance policy proceeds
  • Identify estate assets
  • Assist with Opening and managing the estate’s checking account
  • Assist with obtaining property appraisals
  • Prepare and promptly file all required Court documents
  • Retitle assets in beneficiaries’ names
  • Assist with making final distributions after paying all taxes and bills

Get in Touch for a Consultation

We understand that the probate process comes at a time when you are also coping with loss and the life-changing events that surround it. Our attorneys are sensitive to your priorities during this difficult time and work diligently to provide the expert guidance you need to make navigating the probate process easier.

At Willbanks & Wood PLC, we take pride in our reputation as one of California’s most accessible probate law firms. We are available to answer all of your questions along the way and keep you apprised of important developments. Please contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys.

How long does the probate process take?

In California, the probate process typically takes between 12 and 18 months. However, if complications arise during the process, probate can take up to two years or longer. Therefore, it’s imperative to enlist the services of an experienced California probate attorney to ensure that the process goes as smoothly and progresses as quickly as possible.

Can an estate be settled without probate?

In many cases, the probate process can be avoided altogether with proper estate planning. However, when a person dies with only a last will and testament in place (or no will in place at all), probate is generally required. There is a simplified probate process available when the value of an estate is less than $166,250. In addition, probate may not be necessary if a decedent’s assets are attached to a beneficiary or surviving owner.

What assets are subject to probate?

Probate assets in California include any real estate or personal property that a decedent owned in his or her name before passing. Nearly any type of asset can be considered a probate asset, including a car, a home, a boat, a vacation residence, or furniture. Probate assets can also include intangible assets such as money in a checking account or savings account, stocks, interest in a business, and similar items.

Can I manage probate myself?

You can manage probate yourself in California. However, whether you should manage probate yourself is a different issue. To put it simply, although it’s possible to manage probate alone, it isn’t recommended. The California probate process is simply too complicated to try to handle without legal assistance. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you consult with an experienced California probate lawyer before embarking on the probate process.

What happens when a person dies without a will?

A person who dies without first establishing a valid will is said to have died intestate. When a person dies intestate, his or her estate is passed to his or her heirs according to California’s laws of intestate succession, as described in the California Probate Code. The Court then supervises the transfer of the deceased person’s remaining assets and property through the probate process.

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