Just hearing the words “probate process” can make a person shudder. The thought of long draw out court battles and family fights often come to mind. Although the process does typically take about a year or so to conclude, there are many tools available to a person who is setting up their estate plan to help avoid those battles and ensure the probate of their estate is a smooth one. A Southern California probate attorney knows what those tools are, and which ones would be beneficial to your situation.
California Probate Process
The purpose of the probate process is to make sure that all of a decedent’s assets and property are accounted for, all their debts and tax obligations are paid for, and whatever assets are left over are distributed according to the wishes of the decedent, according to state law. When a person draws up a will, they name an executor. That executor is the person who is in charge of making sure all of these things happen, with the supervision of the court.
The first thing an executor does is to submit the decedent’s will to the probate court in the county where the decedent lived. A Southern California probate attorney can help with this process. The court will issue documentation that authorizes the executor to act on behalf of the estate. The executor also makes sure that all family, heirs, and creditors are notified of the decedent’s death.
The next step for the executor is to locate all of the assets, property, and debts of the estate. The executor must then determine the value of the property – often using professional appraisers when necessary, and also determine the total amount of debts the decedent had.
The executor is responsible for paying all of the debts of the estate and all taxes owed by the estate, using estate assets. Not only does the executor need to make sure that all inheritance and estate taxes are paid, but they must also file final income tax returns.
Once all taxes and debts have been paid, the balance of the estate is then distributed to heirs according to the instructions left by the decedent. However, there is usually a waiting period before this can be done. The law allows a certain period of time – the probate period – for any other creditors to come forward or for any other people to come forward to contest the will.
The court will decide when and if any of these claims are valid and will also decide when probate is complete, and the assets can be distributed.
To learn more about the probate process and estate planning in general, contact Holborn Law to meet with a Southern California probate attorney.