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Orange County Probate Lawyer

Probate Representation for Orange County, CA, Clients

When someone dies, the probate process is the legal procedure for distributing the assets and property they have left behind. Depending on whether the decedent had an estate plan in place, these assets may go to beneficiaries the decedent explicitly named in their estate plan; otherwise, the probate court will distribute them according to the laws of intestate succession. This is the legal process of awarding ownership rights over a deceased individual’s property after their death.

If one of your loved ones has recently died and you don’t know what to expect in terms of administering their estate, an Orange County probate attorney is your best possible resource for information. The attorneys at the Flanigan Law Group have assisted Orange County, CA, clients for more than a decade with their probate proceedings. We understand the emotional challenges facing family members in this situation and we offer a range of resources and experience to every client we represent. Rest assured that if you choose the Flanigan Law Group as your Orange County probate attorneys, we will provide our resources, skills, and experience in handling your case.

What Is Probate?

“Probate” refers to the legal proceedings that will unfold after a person’s death. Probate law dictates that ownership of the assets and property they left behind must transfer to others, typically their closest living relatives. However, many factors come into play in probate proceedings, and in some cases, a family may be able to avoid going to probate entirely. If your recently deceased loved one had an estate plan of any kind, the initial phase of probate would involve analyzing this estate plan to ensure it is valid and legally enforceable. Next, if the estate plan is valid, the executor or personal representative of the deceased named in the estate plan will handle the estate’s administration or the probate court will handle administration according to the provisions of the deceased’s estate plan.

Suppose the deceased did not have an estate plan of any kind. In that circumstance, the case would move directly to probate court. This process is notoriously complex and stressful for the surviving family members as it requires assigning new ownership rights over every asset and every piece of property the deceased owned. The laws of intestate succession will govern these proceedings, which can easily generate friction between beneficiaries. They may disagree with the probate court’s ruling, raise personal issues that the court did not consider, or object to the probate judge’s determination.

How Can I Avoid Probate?

If you do not want your family to experience the stress of probate, it is vital to develop your estate plan as comprehensively as possible. An experienced Orange County probate attorney is an excellent resource if you are curious about your options concerning estate planning. While it will take some effort, developing a comprehensive estate plan could allow your family to avoid a stressful, expensive probate process. This will also ensure your property and assets will be legally distributed according to your wishes, not the impartial directions of California’s intestate succession laws.

If you want to ensure your family can avoid a difficult and expensive probate process after you die, it is essential to create a comprehensive estate plan. This estate plan should provide clear instructions for the distribution of your assets. If you want a specific asset to go to a specific relative, you must clearly outline this within your estate plan. A comprehensive estate plan should include:

  • A will, which outlines your last wishes and preferences for the distribution of your assets.
  • Power of attorney designation names a specific individual to make significant decisions for you if you become incapacitated.
  • An advanced care directive, which outlines your preferences for medical treatment.
  • A trust, which can help your family avoid probate and streamline the estate distribution process. Depending on the type of trust you create, you can protect loved ones from estate taxes or leave the trust open to adjustment in the future.

Many people mistakenly believe that estate planning is only for wealthy people or those who own substantial amounts of property. This is not true, and an appropriately crafted estate plan can be invaluable for any family after losing a loved one.

What to Expect in Probate

The probate process typically includes several phases, and many types of proceedings are possible depending on the details of the situation. Probate may involve:

  • Determination of the validity of the deceased’s estate. For example, the first step of probate may pertain to determining whether the deceased had a will and whether that will is legally valid.
  • Identification of the deceased’s beneficiaries. Suppose the deceased died before leaving an estate plan. In that case, the laws of intestate succession will govern this process. If they did have an estate plan, this process would then involve identifying and contacting named beneficiaries.
  • Appraisal of the deceased’s property. The probate court must accurately determine the value of every asset and every piece of property the deceased owned.
  • Transfer of ownership rights. Once all beneficiaries are identified, and all property has been properly appraised, the next step of probate involves the legal transfer of ownership rights to those beneficiaries.
  • Estate plan administration. Supposed the deceased had a valid estate plan. Then the probate court would oversee the administration of the estate by the personal representative or executor of the estate. This individual will be responsible for managing the estate’s contents and distributing them to the deceased’s beneficiaries. The probate court will oversee all payments of the deceased’s debts and the executor’s expenses as they handle estate administration.
  • Addressing disputes. A family member may contest a will’s validity, object to a beneficiary receiving certain property, or raise concerns about the executor’s handling of the estate. All of these disputes will unfold in probate court.

The probate process will unfold differently for every family that must endure it. It’s possible to administer some aspects of an estate before moving to probate to handle the rest, but ultimately it is best to have an experienced Orange County probate attorney on your side no matter what your situation entails. If you are ready to discuss your probate concerns with an experienced and compassionate Orange County probate attorney, contact the Flanigan Law Group today.