In California, the estates of people who die will go through a process called probate. Probate involves the court determining whether the decedent died with or without a will and validating any will that exists. As a part of the process, the courts appoint someone to serve as the estate’s administrator or executor. In some cases, people who have left wills may have named someone to serve as the executor. The administrator or executor will have multiple responsibilities, and if they perform the tasks incorrectly, they may be subjected to litigation. Getting help from an experienced Costa Mesa probate and estate planning attorney may help people to avoid potential issues and to make certain that the estate administration proceeds smoothly.
Probate administration overview
When someone dies, the first step will be to decide whether probate is necessary. If the decedent’s assets are held entirely in joint tenancy or in a living trust, a probate proceeding will not be necessary. If the decedent had assets exceeding $100,000 and died without a surviving spouse, then the estate will go through probate. An executor or administrator will then be named.
To initiate the probate process, a petition must be filed with the probate court. The court will then set a hearing date approximately 30 days after the date that the petition is filed. Everyone who is named in the will must be notified of the hearing. If there is no will, then all the potential heirs will need to be notified. The notice of the hearing must also be published in the newspaper three times. The administrator or executor will have the following responsibilities:
- Identifying and collecting all the assets
- Changing the titles for the assets that have been collected
- Completing an inventory of all the assets and determining their fair market values
- Paying bills and debts from the estate’s proceeds
- Conducting an asset sale if necessary
- Filing income, fiduciary and estate tax returns
- Paying all legal and court fees
- Distributing the assets according to the will or to the intestacy laws
- Closing the estate
Contact an experienced estate planning and probate attorney
Probate administration can be highly complex and potentially subject administrators or executors to litigation and liability. Getting legal help from an experienced Costa Mesa probate and estate planning lawyer may be important. Contact the Law Office of Kirk McIntosh to schedule a consultation.