Probate Hearings Attorney Los Angeles, CA
In California, and elsewhere, probate is a formal, court-supervised process for closing out an estate and ensuring that the various liabilities, debts, and promises of the estate are properly distributed using the assets therein. If you’ve been named as Executor in a Will, then you may be wondering how the probate process is meant to proceed — after all, as Executor, you are a fundamental piece of the puzzle.
Let’s take a look.
Commencing Probate Proceedings in Santa Clarita, California
Probate can be lengthy, demanding, and (in some cases) expensive, particularly if it is dragged out by creditors, beneficiaries, and other interested parties who ultimately challenge aspects of the Will. There may be alternative, more efficient forms of probate available in limited circumstances. As the named Executor, it is your responsibility to consider the available options.
For example, if the estate at issue involves assets totaling less than $100,000, then it may qualify under the small-estate exception for a less-formal, sped-up version of probate. Similarly, if the assets are all intended for the surviving spouse, then a shortened probate process known as the spousal set-aside may be instituted.
In order to commence probate proceedings, a qualified petitioner (typically the named Executor; but in the event that there is no named Executor, the petitioner may be any interested person or persons, such as a beneficiary) must first determine whether there is a valid Will.
If you can locate a valid Will, then you must file a petition for probate within 30 days of the decedent’s death. If there is no valid Will, then the petition for probate must still be filed, but probate will proceed as “intestate,” which means that beneficiary distributions will be made in accordance with California default rules established by statutory law.
Once the petition has been filed with the court (in the county were the decedent was a resident at time of death), the court will set a date for the initial probate hearing. The probate hearing may be set anywhere from two months to six months after the petition is filed, so bear that in mind. It is worth doing a bit of extra “leg work” beforehand to ensure that the process goes smoothly and beneficiaries are not left waiting for their distributions for too long.
When petitioning for probate in California, it is worth requesting “full powers.” Normally, an Executor must obtain court approval for basic transactions, such as paying off a debt or investing estate assets. With a grant of “full powers,” however, the Executor may conduct such transactions without prior court approval, which can speed up the CA probate process considerably.
Having filed the petition and obtained a hearing date, it is your responsibility as Executor to notify all interested parties about the probate hearing. You can do so through publication in a newspaper of general circulation.
After the Initial Probate Hearing in Chatsworth, California
After the initial probate hearing, the court will issue Letters of Administration. At this point, you are empowered by the probate court to act in accordance with your full suite of duties and responsibilities as Executor (i.e., inventorying assets, managing assets, paying debts, maintaining records, etc.). You must also serve direct notice upon known creditors and beneficiaries.
After notice has been served to creditors, they have four months to submit their claim. You can then choose to accept their claim (and pay the debt), or reject their claim and dispute it in probate court.
Whether the post-hearing process is straightforward or complicated depends entirely on the circumstances. In some cases, creditors and beneficiaries may be hostile and may decide to litigate their disagreement. Extensive disputes can cause substantial delays.
Once all disputes have been resolved, however, you may proceed to closing the estate.
“Closing the Estate” in California Probate
When you’re ready to close the estate, you’ll have to file a final account with the court. This account must include records of the estate assets and various payments that were made to creditors and professionals (for their services). Further, the final account must include any and all requests for payment that require the approval of the court. The intended structure for asset distribution to the beneficiaries must be approved as well and included in the final account.
A hearing on the final account will be set by the court. Once this hearing is complete and you have distributed the remaining estate assets and closed out the estate in full, you may request an order for discharge. Discharge clears you of all responsibilities as Executor.
Schedule a Free Consultation with an Experienced Los Angeles Probate Hearings Lawyer
Los Angeles probate attorney Darrell C. Harriman has spent his career — spanning over two decades — providing comprehensive probate services to a range of clients involved in probate administration proceedings in North Hills, Mission Hills, Northridge, Santa Clarita, and throughout the San Fernando Valley, CA. Attorney Harriman is dedicated to the provision of personalized legal representation. As such, he works closely with clients to ensure that their concerns are made a priority and their strategic objectives are aligned throughout the California probate administration process.
Unlike many other firms offering probate administration services, the Law Offices of Darrell C. Harriman has a long history of specializing in the provision of probate administration and estate planning services, as well as litigation related to conflicts therein. When complications arise, we are well-equipped to handle them — thanks to our in-depth, extensive experience in probate administration in California, we’ve seen it all.
Call (818) 435-4278 today to get connected to a skilled Los Angeles probate attorney here at the Law Offices of Darrell C. Harriman. Consultation is free and confidential.