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 evaluating 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.