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Irvine, CA Probate FAQs

Many people find themselves thrown into the probate process without knowing nearly as much as they should before going into it. And oftentimes, a difficult legal process is one of the last things a grieving person wants to be thinking about.

Probate can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Here at Flanigan Law, we want to help you not only get through the probate process, but to understand it, too.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about probate in Irvine, California.

What Is Probate?

Probate is the legal process of assessing and then administering someone’s estate after they have passed away, as well as examining any debt that may be leftover. Probate typically involves going through legal proceedings to validate the deceased person’s will so then their probate attorney can follow through on their last wishes. But, probate can also happen even if there isn’t a valid will in place. The probate process will distribute the estate and remaining assets of the deceased, to the beneficiaries listed on their will.

What Is the Probate Process Like?

The probate process can differ slightly depending on what the final testaments of the deceased were and if they had a valid will in place or not. There are 5 main stages of probate that you will most likely have to go through to finish the legal process.

  1. Filing for Probate
    The first step of probate is to file a petition with the probate court in order to validate the deceased’s will. Until the will is proven to be valid, the executor of the estate is not allowed to begin distributing any of the assets. The court will also assign someone to help handle the case if there were no specific executors listed in the will. Otherwise, the court must approve the mentioned executors first.
  2. Sending Out Notices
    Once the will has been validated and a probate attorney has been assigned, the creditors of the deceased must be notified of their death so they can present any claims to request money from the court if they so wish.
  3. Taking Inventory
    One of the main jobs of your probate attorney is to help you assess the value of the estate and coinciding assets of the deceased. Your attorney will most likely help schedule appraisals to help evaluate formal assets such as property and automobiles. Inventory will be evaluated on the date of death so that information on the assets will be as accurate as possible.
  4. Settling Claims and Debts
    After the inventory process is complete, the debts and other claims of the deceased need to be settled. This part of the process will examine the debt that the deceased was in and whether or not their creditors are requesting for the money to be paid back. If any debt is owed, the probate process remains open until it is paid.
  5. Distributing Assets and Closing the Estate
    The final step of probate is to distribute the assets of the deceased. The court will validate that all legal requirements have been met and all bills have been paid off so that distribution of the estate may begin. After the remaining assets have been distributed correctly, the final part of your probate process will be to officially close the estate.

How Long Is the Probate Process?

The probate process will be a different length for each person that goes through it, depending on how much estate planning has taken place, the amount of assets, and if there was a valid will in place. It can be anywhere from a couple of months to over a year.

The state of California requires that probate proceedings must remain open for at least 4 months after a person passes away, so that creditors have enough time to file claims for remaining debt if they desire.

California law also states that probate should be completed one year from the initial appointment that was scheduled to open the process. If your probate process isn’t finished by then, your probate lawyer will have to submit a claim explaining why it may be taking so long and how much longer the estate may need to process.

What Assets Are Subject to Probate?

There is a long list of assets that are subjectable to probate in the state of California. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Real Estate Property
  • Any Personal Property in Their Name
  • Automobiles
  • Boats
  • Collections / Art / Pieces of Value to the Deceased
  • Furniture
  • Life Insurance Policies
  • Checking/Savings Accounts
  • Stocks / Interest in Businesses
  • Investment Accounts

Can You Avoid Probate in California?

In the state of California, you are most likely going to go through the probate process if the deceased had value in their estate. But, there are some aspects that can make the process a lot shorter or help you to avoid it all together.

  • Living Trusts
    If the deceased had a living trust with their assets on it, probate will most likely be avoided. A living trust will list the main person as the trustee and another person as the successor, so when the trustee passes away, the successor will become in charge of the trust. Then, the successor can transfer the living trust to the listed beneficiaries without having to go through the long process of probate.
  • Joint Ownership
    Sometimes when property is owned jointly, the owners are given “right of survivorship.” This means that if one of the owners passes away, the property avoids probate and just goes to the surviving owner.

Going Through the Probate Process

Are you or someone you know going through the probate process in Orange County, California? If you’re in need of an Irvine probate attorney, Flanigan Law Group is here to help.

The probate process can seem long and exhausting, but having an expert Irvingattorney will help make the process go smoothly. Here at Flanigan Law Group, we are experts at the probate process and will work hard to ensure that the deceased’s last wishes are followed to the best of our ability. For more information on probate, contact us here on our website or call us at our Irvine office at (949) 450-0041.