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Probate Information Sheet

Losing a beloved family member can be overwhelming. Family members are often burdened with legal issues and financial decisions at the same time they are dealing with their own emotions. In California, the estate of a deceased person may be required to go through the probate process before beneficiaries can take ownership of the inheritance. Probate includes validation of the will and the exact manner of settling the estate. During probate, it is decided how, when, and to which individuals or institutions the decedent’s estate will be distributed. Probate Stephen C. Hinze, Attorney At Law, APC, brings over 30 years of experience to help clients affordably navigate the probate process.

Important Terms To Know In The Probate Process

Probate has many factors, and knowing the following legal terms may help you gain a better understanding of the process.

  • Beneficiary: A person identified in a will who receives an inheritance.
  • Decedent: A person who has died.
  • Executor: The person identified in a will and recognized by the probate court who will oversee the decedent’s estate and ensure the will’s directives are carried out. An executor may also be called an administrator or personal representative.
  • Heir: An individual who inherits from a decedent who had not written a will.
  • Intestate: The act of passing away without first establishing a valid will.
  • Intestate Succession: The process by which heirs inherit from a person who does not have a will.
  • Probate: The state-mandated process in which a deceased individual’s property is distributed.
  • Property: Items such as real estate, jewelry, furniture, cars, stocks and cash that is the subject of inheritance.
  • Real Property: Actual real estate holdings, including land and buildings.
  • Testate: The act of passing away after establishing a valid last will and testament.
  • Testator: The individual who creates a will.
  • Trust: A legal vehicle that holds and directs assets on behalf of a beneficiary.
  • Will: A document listing a person’s directives regarding the manner of settling their estate after death.

Probate Administration Settles The Estate

Probate administration includes actions that occur after an individual passes away. It is the process of effectively managing and distributing the decedent’s assets. A skilled probate administration lawyer can help you understand and fulfill the required actions. If you have agreed to serve as the executor of a loved one’s estate, the attorney can provide assistance and legal guidance to ensure California Probate Law is followed. The probate process takes time and follows a prescribed path. This includes multiple court dates and deadlines. Having details and documentation in order can help the process stay on course. Missing documents or other complications may unnecessarily lengthen the probate process. Beneficiaries cannot receive the inheritance until the probate process is complete.

The first part of the probate process involves the will being validated. This happens in probate court and an executor is identified. If the will does not identify an executor, or if the person declines to serve as executor, the court will appoint a person to serve as the estate’s personal representative or executor. Beneficiaries and creditors are notified. Then, assets are identified, appraised, and gathered for inventory. Debts and taxes are managed and paid. A probate accounting is required by the court along with documentation from the executor. After court documents are filed and accepted, the remainder of the assets can be distributed.

Probate Litigation Resolves Complications During Probate

The probate process is not simple. With many detailed factors, financial and legal implications, and familial relationships to consider, probate can be complex. This is all happening during a time when the family is grieving. A person may become highly emotional after a loved one’s death, especially when settling the estate is not going smoothly. There are plenty of opportunities for the family drama to complicate the probate process.

After a loved one dies, family members may dispute the validity of the will, the way the estate is being handled, or the number of beneficiaries named in the will. A challenge to the will may also arise when a family member feels they have been omitted accidentally. These legal challenges may require negotiation or a court trial to be resolved. Hiring a skilled probate litigation attorney can help you achieve the best possible outcome for your family. Attorney Steve Hinze has extensive experience handling sensitive topics with members of the same family. He understands the way nuances in probate law affect an individual’s rights. Following the guidance of a knowledgeable probate attorney may result in the estate completing the probate process in a quicker, more efficient manner.

Challenges To The Probate Process

Probate litigation involves a wide range of situations that may challenge an estate at any part of the probate process. A dispute may stem from a family member who believes the decedent was not creating the will in a legal manner. For a will to be validated in California, the individual must have created it using a sound mind and body. The person must have sufficient mental capacity to make declarations in their last will and testament. A will is not valid if its creator lacked the ability to make sound judgments regarding the way their estate should be handled. If there is evidence that the testator had mental decline before the creation of the will, it may be used as grounds to contest a will.

Another challenge to the probate process may be undue influence. If the testator was pressured into making certain arrangements for beneficiaries, this may also be grounds to contest the will. The will must be prepared without undue influence as a factor. If foul play was involved, it is possible the decedent was convinced to alter its terms to favor one or more individuals. Family members may challenge a will if they recognize that emotional manipulation was used to gain consideration in a will or trust.

Contact An Experienced Probate Attorney

Probate Attorney Steve Hinze has earned a reputation for providing high-quality legal representation at affordable rates for clients involved in any type of probate case. Call 760-689-0705 and arrange for a probate consultation to discuss your situation.