When a loved one dies, the last thing you want to worry about is the legal
hassle of probate court. However, you may not have a choice. If the estate
is valued at more than $150,000, California’s probate laws require
that you go through the probate process.
Our firm guides clients through the stressful and complicated probate process.
We have the experience to handle any legal issues that arise. Probate
allows you to gather and value the estate of the person who died, as well
as determine property rights of minors, pay debts and taxes, and distribute
personal property to beneficiaries and heirs. Depending on the complexity
of your case and the size of the estate, the probate process may take
anywhere from 6 months to 2 years to complete.
Understanding LA County’s Probate Court System
The Los Angeles Probate Court is a Court of General Jurisdiction. It has
the ability to oversee conservatorship proceedings, guardianship proceedings,
trust proceedings, and estate proceedings. In general, the probate process
determines the validity of a will and distributes assets and property
according to the decedent’s wishes. If the total value of your loved
one’s estate is less than $150,000, you will not have to go to probate court.
Assets that are required to go through the Los Angeles County probate process include:
- Any assets registered in the decedent’s name
- Half of any assets registered as marital property with the decedent’s spouse
- Any assets that are not registered
- The portion of any shared assets the decedent was entitled to
Assets can include things like real estate, businesses, vehicles, and personal
property items like jewelry, furniture, artwork, gun collections, and
any other pieces of value belonging to the decedent. However, assets held
in joint tenancy or in a living trust are generally not required to go
through the probate process. Furthermore, assets where a beneficiary is
specifically named do not need to go through probate court.
5 Steps of the Los Angeles Probate Process
In order to start the probate process in Los Angeles County, the executor
of the decedent’s estate (the person named in the will as the one
in charge of handling the estate) must file a petition in the California
Superior Court where the decedent was residing. After the petition is
filed, a hearing will be scheduled. The hearing is usually set for 30
days from the date of filing the petition.
The Los Angeles County probate process involves 5 steps:
Handling the required notices. After the petition is filed with the court, a public notice of the hearing
must be posted. LA County requires a minimum of 3 publications in the
local newspaper. In addition, the official notice must be mailed to each
individual who is named in the will, as well as to all legal heirs of
the estate. All executors or administrators named in the will must also
be notified by mail.
Proving the validity of the will. If there is a will, part of the probate process involves proving its
validity. A will may be deemed invalid if the decedent was coerced, mentally
incompetent, or unduly influenced to sign it. However, sometimes a will
may be self-validating. This means there is specific wording at the bottom
of the will (where the witnesses sign) that makes it unnecessary for the
court to prove its validity with additional witness statements and other evidence.
Collecting and valuating the assets. The personal representative, also known as the executor, of the decedent’s
estate must take possession of the property and assets that will go through
the probate process. He or she must gather all the items and take an inventory
to ensure all necessary property and assets are accounted for. Furthermore,
the executor must oversee the valuation of the estate by certified professionals.
If the title of certain assets must be transferred to another person’s
name, the personal representative will also handle that process.
Paying off debts. After all the assets have been accounted for and valued, the executor
will pay creditors with a portion of the estate. These payments may include
credit card balances, bills, and funeral expenses. Any creditor with a
valid claim to the decedent’s estate must submit a claim form to
the administrator. If the court decides that the claim is valid, the executor
will pay the amount.
Concluding the estate. After creditors are paid, the remaining portion of the estate will be
distributed according to the will. Other issues will also be dealt with
at this point. A final accounting of the estate will be performed and
filed with the court, and a petition will be drafted at the conclusion
of the estate. The petition will provide a summary of the probate process
and distribution of the estate.
Our Los Angeles Probate Attorneys Provide Experienced Representation
If you are facing probate court, we can walk you through the process. We
know you are going through an emotional time. That is why our Los Angeles
probate lawyers strive to find effective legal solutions to handle any
issues that arise, so you can have peace of mind. We can help you file
the petition, notify all parties, and establish the validity of the will.
From start to finish, our compassionate attorneys can stand by your side
and provide informative legal advice.
Contact us today for a personal, one-on-one consultation.