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Santa Ana Probate Attorney

The death of a loved one is often an extremely emotional time in one’s life. This period can be made even more difficult if an individual is selected to be the executor for the probate process. Addressing the complexities of a will can be challenging for someone with little experience. Working with a Santa Ana probate attorney can help streamline the process to make it easier on grieving loved ones.

Tailored to Your Needs

The Flanigan Law Group has lots of experience with cases involving wills, trusts, and estate planning. Our focus on one specific area of law gives us a unique edge in providing advanced knowledge for your case. The Flanigan Law Group has even been featured on CBS’ 48 Hours in the episode “Conspiracy to Kill.” Let the seasoned attorneys at The Flanigan Law Group help you with your probate case.

Santa Ana Probate Attorney

Why Do I Need a Probate Attorney in Santa Ana, CA?

While it is not a legal requirement to hire an attorney for a probate case, it is highly recommended. Most individuals dealing with their loved one’s estate are doing so at a very difficult time. Grieving the death of a loved one while simultaneously managing a complicated estate can be especially trying. Hiring an asset lawyer can help you focus on other important details, like funeral arrangements, and give you more time to spend with your Santa Ana family.

A probate attorney can help you:

  • File Paperwork: There are several documents that you need to file once someone dies. These will notify the court that the probate process should begin.
  • Contact Loved Ones: The creator of the will usually lists several people in the document. These people will need to be notified of their loved one’s death.
  • Resolve Disputes: Sometimes, there are issues that arise when a will is evaluated, especially if there is contention between the family. An attorney can help solve conflicts and make the probate process easier for all parties involved.
  • Determine Assets: After death, all of an individual’s estate needs to be evaluated. This process can be incredibly daunting for someone who has never done it before, but it can be more properly handled by a legal professional.
  • Resolve Debts and Taxes: Before assets are paid out to those mentioned in the will, an estate needs to settle all its debts and unpaid taxes.

When Is Probate Needed?

Not every estate requires an executor to go through the probate process. In certain circumstances, probate might not be needed. These include:

  • Estates worth under $150,000 when the creator of the will died
  • Estates that are under a living trust instead of a will
  • Estates where most assets are exchanged out of the will before death
  • Assets with specific beneficiaries already assigned, like life insurance or retirement payouts

Understanding the Probate Process in Santa Ana, CA

While every will and probate is different, there is a general structure that most probate processes tend to follow, including:

  • Initial Filing: Once a decedent has died, the executor must inform the court by filing the initial probate paperwork. The initial filing fee is $435, and a hearing date will be scheduled by the court within 30 days of receipt.
  • Hearing Notice: In California, it is legally required to publish a notice of the hearing in the newspaper for several weeks so that all interested parties can learn about it. An official notice must also be sent to all the parties in the will as well as any heirs of the decedent, even if they are not in the will themselves.
  • Proving of the Will: This step only needs to be taken if the will was not proved at the time of its creation. If the will has not been proved, it must be reviewed and verified that it came from the decedent.
  • Asset Identification: A complete list of assets must be drafted, outlining what they are and what their value is. This list includes financial accounts, property, and other valuable items.
  • Payment of Debts and Taxes: Creditors often file claims after a decedent’s passing to obtain the money that they are owed. This aspect can also include funeral costs and other charges. In addition to debts, any federal, state, or city taxes must be settled before the estate is closed.
  • Conclusion: Once the probate process is settled, the executor files a Petition for Final Distribution. This gets the court to set a hearing and approve the closure of the estate. Once the court approves, the assets can be divided up according to the will.

What Are an Executor’s Rights and Responsibilities?

An executor is appointed to make sure that the estate is properly managed and divided. They are often not the sole beneficiary of the assets in the will. If there are beneficiaries who cannot be found, it is the responsibility of the executor to either attempt to contact them or prove that they are deceased. Instead of receiving a portion of the assets, an executor is given a standardized executor fee mandated by California law. The fee structure is as follows:

  • The first $100,000 of an estate is charged at 4%.
  • The next $100,000 of an estate is charged at 3%.
  • The next $800,000 of an estate is charged at 2%.

This means that the executor would get $23,000 for an estate valued at $1 million ($4,000 for the first $100k, $3,000 for the second $100k, and $16,000 for the final $800,000). Any estate valued over $1 million is charged at 1% for the next $9 million and 0.5% for the next $15 million, up to a total value of $25 million. Probate and attorney fees for estates over $25 million are often decided by a court.

This fee structure is matched if an attorney works with the executor, meaning that both the attorney and the executor get the same percentage. An executor can sometimes charge for what are called extraordinary actions that are not typical in probate proceedings. These include:

  • Real Estate: An attorney can charge more if they have to sell, exchange, or lease property held in the will.
  • Tax Obligations: Obligations like filing tax documents and attending court for tax-related issues also fall under extraordinary actions. These can result in more money paid to the executor.

An attorney also charges for extraordinary services, including:

  • Settling Debts: Sometimes, before the benefits are paid out, an attorney must find financing through loans to pay the estate’s debts.
  • Litigation: An attorney might have to represent an executor or the estate in court for issues surrounding the will, taxes, debts, or removing an executor.
  • Replacing an Executor: If an executor dies, is removed, or cannot otherwise perform the duties necessary for the probate proceedings, an attorney can charge additional fees to take their place.

Probate in Santa Ana, CA FAQs

Q: How Much Do Probate Attorneys Charge in Santa Ana, California?

A: The amount that a probate attorney can charge for their services in Santa Ana is mandated by the state. This fee is assessed based on how much the estate is worth. The attorney can charge 4% on the first $100,000 of the estate’s value. Then, the percentage decreases as different limits are set. The attorney can sometimes charge extra fees if there are any services deemed extraordinary. To determine a specific amount for your unique probate case, contact an attorney directly.

Q: What Are the Statutory Probate Fees in California?

A: Probate fees in Santa Ana depend on the value of the estate. The first $100,000 in value is charged at 4%. The next $100,000 is charged at 3%, and the next $800,000 is charged at 2%. The next $9 million is charged at 1%, and any remaining value up to $15 million is charged at 0.5%. For any estate worth more than $25 million, the probate fees will be evaluated by the court.

Q: How Much Does It Cost to Make a Will in Santa Ana, CA?

A: In Santa Ana, a will typically costs around $400-$700 to create. The specific cost depends on the amount of assets you have, which lawyer you choose, and whether you are married or not. Unlike a will, a living trust costs more because it allows you to skip the probate process. Instead, you will designate a trustee to handle the estate after death. It can also account for issues like medical care and power of attorney.

Q: How Much Does an Estate Have to Be Worth to Go to Probate in CA?

A: The minimum amount of assets necessary for an estate to go to probate in Santa Ana is $150,000. Assets can include a wide variety of items, such as:

  • Property
  • Money in the bank
  • Investments
  • Expensive cars
  • Jewelry
  • Artwork

Certain assets, like trusts and retirement accounts with an assigned beneficiary, are not subject to probate because there is already someone in place to receive those benefits.

Help Your Santa Ana Probate Process Go Smoothly

When finding a probate attorney, it is important to evaluate whether they are responsive and can listen to your unique situation. The Flanigan Law Group strives to take a compassionate approach to every case and provide personalized care and attention, regardless of the estate’s size. Schedule a consultation today to find out how you might benefit from legal assistance during the probate process.