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California Probate Code

What You Need to Know About Probate

Probate is the process of distributing the estate of someone who recently died. It is governed by the statutes and laws passed by the California legislature and outlined in the California Probate Code. Because of the complexities involved in probate, it’s best to seek legal advice from an Oceanside probate attorney. 

Dealing with the death of a family member or a loved one is difficult enough. You shouldn’t have to worry about handling a loved one’s estate when you should be spending this time with your family. If you and your family are going through the probate process, schedule a free consultation today with our California probate attorneys at Century Trusts & Estate Planning. 

We will deal with the legal aspect of probate and help resolve any disputes that arise so you can focus on what matters most. Contact us now!

What is Probate?

Probate is a legal process of administering a deceased person’s estate. The probate process involves validating wills, paying off debts and taxes, and distributing assets to named beneficiaries. This is accomplished with the assistance of the local probate court.

A deceased person’s estate must be settled and distributed with or without a will. The exact probate process can vary depending on the instructions left in the will, assets, creditors, and beneficiaries the estate has. Call an Oceanside probate lawyer to understand how probate works and find out how this affects your probate procedures.

What is the California Probate Code?

The California Probate Code is a comprehensive set of laws that govern various aspects of estate planning, probate, and related matters. It outlines the legal procedures and rules that apply when someone passes away, leaving assets, property, or debts behind. The Probate Code covers a wide range of topics related to the administration of estates, trusts, guardianships, conservatorships, and more. 

What is Regulated Under the California Probate Code?

The California Probate Code serves as the legal framework for managing and distributing a person’s assets and affairs after their death. It provides guidance on how to handle various aspects of estate administration, from establishing the validity of wills and trusts to settling debts and ensuring that assets are distributed to the appropriate heirs or beneficiaries. The California Probate Code may change over time due to legislative updates and amendments, so it’s crucial to seek legal advice from our Oceanside CA probate lawyer when dealing with probate and estate matters.

Here are some of the key areas and matters that are regulated under the California Probate Code:

Guardianship, Conservatorship, and Other Protective Proceedings (Division 4)

Division 4 of the California Probate Code is a specific section of the code that deals with the requirements for establishing guardianship over minor (under age 18) children with absent parents, financial and personal conservatorships over incapacitated individuals, and legal arrangements with similar purposes. Specifically, conservatorships may involve establishing powers of attorney (Division 4.5) and making advanced healthcare decisions (Division 4.7).

Non-Probate Transfers (Division 5)

Non-probate transfers allow certain assets to pass directly to beneficiaries upon the death of the owner, bypassing the need for probate court proceedings. This section describes how to avoid the probate process when transferring ownership of estates. It covers a range of topics, including the creation of trusts, joint tenancy, payable-on-death accounts, transfer-on-death deeds, revocation of non-probate transfers, and related provisions.

Wills and Intestate Succession (Division 6)

These sections address how to execute wills and how to distribute estates when no will exists. The Probate Code sets out the rules for who inherits the deceased person’s property in such cases.

Administration of Estates of Decedents (Division 7)

This is the largest division of the California Probate Code. These sections cover the legal requirements and phases of the entire probate process. It encompasses the appointment of a personal representative (executor or administrator), inventory of assets, payment of debts, and distribution of assets to heirs or beneficiaries. 

Disposition of Estate Without Administration (Division 8)

Division 8 of the California Probate Code provides a simplified and expedited process for handling small estates without the need for a formal probate administration. Avoiding the full probate process reduces the administrative burden and costs associated with estate settlement for smaller estates.

This section identifies two circumstances in which summary probate — an abbreviated probate process — may be employed in place of traditional probate. It allows for the efficient distribution of a deceased person’s assets when the total value of their estate falls below certain thresholds. Summary probate is possible when the estate is small or when the deceased individual is married and the property is transferred to the surviving spouse. 

Trust Law (Division 9)

Division 9 of the California Probate Code addresses the establishment, administration, and governance of trusts within the state. This division helps ensure that trusts are established and administered in compliance with state law and the best interests of the beneficiaries. This section also identifies all the different types of trusts, the requirements, financial regulations, and benefits of each.

Construction of Wills, Trusts, and Other Instruments (Division 11)

The Division 11 of the California Probate Code regulates the creation and interpretation of estate planning documents and contracts such as wills and trusts. These rules and principles help ensure that the intent of the testator is correctly understood and applied during the administration and enforcement of these instruments. Proper interpretation is crucial for carrying out the wishes of the instrument’s creator and avoiding disputes among beneficiaries and interested parties.

When Is Probate Necessary?

Whether or not an estate has to go through probate depends on several factors. Most states allow a certain amount of property to pass free of probate or through a simplified probate procedure. Whether probate is needed depends on the property type, how it is owned, and the state laws. A trusted Oceanside probate attorney in California can help you figure out if the assets owned by the decedent are probate assets.

Property and assets that are only in the decedent’s name are part of the probate estate. If the decedent owned any property in their sole name, then that property must be probated to get out of the decedent’s name and transferred into the names of the decedent’s beneficiaries.

Some property may not be part of the probate estate because it passes directly to another person by law. Examples of this include when some or all of a decedent’s property is:

  • Payable-on-death accounts
  • Jointly held property where there is a right of survivorship
  • Property held in a trust created by the decedent
  • Proceeds from a life insurance policy, retirement account, or bank account that names a beneficiary

If you’re not sure whether you need to go through probate or not, give us a call to discuss your situation with our Oceanside probate lawyer.

How Long Does Probate Take?

Probate can take several months, even years, before it is completed. It can also be complicated, especially if wills are contested. The process involves many steps, all of which are necessary to transfer ownership of assets from the deceased to a beneficiary. The length of the probate process depends on many factors, such as:

  • The number of beneficiaries
  • Type and size of the estate
  • If some taxes and debts need to be paid
  • If there are issues with the estate plan

Probating a simple estate with no issues can take anywhere from
nine months to a year. However, if there is a will contest or large estate, it can take two years or longer. A skilled Oceanside probate attorney can help you understand how probate works, the reasons behind the timeline, and which steps take longer.

Who is Responsible for Handling Probate?

If the deceased person had a valid will or trust, those documents would communicate the intentions of the decedent, including how to administer the estate. Then, the court appoints the executor or personal representative named in the will to manage the estate administration. The executor has numerous duties concerning wills. After opening probate with a qualified Oceanside probate attorney, the executor will assist in identifying, collecting, and evaluating assets.

Without a will, the deceased is said to have died “intestate.” The probate court will determine how and to whom assets from the estate will be distributed according to the state laws of intestate succession.

How Does Probate Work?

Probate laws and procedures may vary from state to state. Our experienced Oceanside probate attorney can help you through this complex process. Generally, the probate process typically involves the following steps:

  1. Submit a Death Certificate – The executor of the estate will initiate the probate process by filing the death certificate with the probate court along with the will.
  2. Validate the Will – The court must ensure that the will is valid and authentic.
  3. Appoint an Executor or Personal Representative – The probate judge appoints the executor named in the will. Without a will, the judge shall appoint someone else to handle the estate.
  4. Post a Bond – The court may require the personal representative to post a probate bond because they will handle money, property, and assets.
  5. Notify Beneficiaries and Creditors – The executor is responsible for identifying beneficiaries and notifying creditors of the probate administration.
  6. Appraise Assets to Determine the Value of the Estate – The executor must get real estate appraisals, make an inventory of personal property, and value the estate assets.
  7. Pay Valid Debts and Taxes – The executor must settle all debts and taxes.
  8. Distribute Assets to Beneficiaries – After paying estate debts, taxes, and claims, the remaining assets will be distributed to the named beneficiaries.
  9. Close the Estate – The personal representative files a final accounting with the court to close probate.

Why Do I Need an Oceanside Probate Attorney?

It is tough to deal with the loss of a loved one. The last thing anybody wants is to have to encounter the stress of the probate process. Handling the affairs and the estate of a deceased loved one can seem overwhelming. At Century Trusts & Estate Planning, we help grieving families navigate California probate rules to ensure that the estate administration process goes as smoothly as possible.

  • Extensive Experience: Our seasoned Oceanside probate attorney has an in-depth knowledge of California probate law and experience in handling estate planning, probate administration, probate litigation, trust administration, and trust litigation cases.
  • Wide-Range of Legal Services: We provide a broad range of estate planning services for our clients in Oceanside, Carlsbad, Vista, San Marcos, Escondido, Fallbrook, Encinitas, Solana Beach, La Costa, Leucadia, Cardiff, and its surrounding areas.
  • Minimize Potential Disputes and Litigation: We work diligently to help minimize potential disputes and avoid expensive and time-consuming probate litigation. We provide an unbiased perspective on the situation to ensure that the estate is settled fairly.
  • Protect the Estate: Our California estate planning attorney ensures that the assets and properties are kept safe and prevents unjust claims.
  • Assist Executors and Beneficiaries: Our legal team can accomplish many things to settle an estate and guide the executor and beneficiaries during the probate process and estate administration. 

Understanding the probate process is essential for several reasons, especially if you are involved in matters related to
estate planning, trust administration, or the distribution of assets after someone’s death. To ensure that the property goes to the right people in the right way, contact us now to schedule a free consultation with our Oceanside probate attorney.

Call Our Oceanside Probate Attorney Now!

Navigating through probate is not an easy task. It is usually an expensive and lengthy process. It requires you to know the California probate rules and procedures. Because estate administration is such an important matter, you must complete the probate process as efficiently as possible.

Working with our experienced Oceanside probate attorney at Century Trusts & Estate Planning is the best way to ensure the probate process is as smooth and painless as possible. We ensure that you follow the probate laws every step of the way, including any documentation you submit. Our California estate planning law firm is ready to advocate for you if you disagree or dispute with another beneficiary, ensuring your rights are protected. Call us to schedule a free consultation with our Oceanside probate lawyer today.

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