How a Lawyer Can Help Resolve California Probate Complications

Dealing with the death of a loved one is hard enough without having to handle the court appearances, legal duties and other details of administering to the final wishes of family and friends regarding their estates and burials. A comprehensive, up-to-date estate plan can avoid many inheritance disputes and complications, helping to ease the transition. Unfortunately, many people die without a proper estate plan, even if they managed to create a will. Even if an estate plan is legally valid and clear, simply by its nature, handling estate and inheritance matters can be complicated for people without legal expertise.

An experienced California probate attorney can help to resolve issues that arise during the inheritance and probate process.

The California Probate Process

Probate is the court-supervised legal process for distributing a person's assets after death. State law governs probate, and in California the superior court in which the deceased person lived will preside over the probate process. Unless the entirety of the estate is in a living trust, it is likely some property must pass through probate. Probate usually takes at least a year, even for relatively simple estates, and more complicated or disputed estates can take several years to complete probate.

If the deceased person had a will, then the custodian of the will must file it in the appropriate superior court and notify the executor of the estate within 30 days. If there is no will, the court will appoint an administrator of the estate, usually a spouse or immediate family member if possible.

A comprehensive list of executor or administrator legal duties during probate is beyond the scope of this article, but examples include sending a notice to all heirs mentioned in the will, appearing in court, handling creditor claims and inventorying and distributing the estate's assets.

Common Probate Complications

The probate process may be made more complicated if any of the following situations apply:

  • The estate contains property in another state
  • The estate contains a large number of assets, especially real estate
  • A beneficiary of the estate cannot be found
  • There are competing wills or property transfers
  • Assets must be managed or sold during probate, such as if the estate contains a business or an item that will soon depreciate in value
  • The will is contested or potentially invalid, such as because of undue duress or mental incapacity affecting the creator of the will

The complications that can arise in transferring the assets of a loved one after death can make probate and inheritance matters daunting to the uninitiated. If you have questions regarding the estate of a deceased loved one, contact a skilled estate planning attorney for help with your situation.