Taking the time to speak with a Sacramento probate attorney can help your surviving loved ones immensely. Losing a loved one is often traumatic and extremely stressful. After a loved one dies, surviving family members often face difficult financial decisions. Setting up an estate plan with a Sacramento probate attorney can save your surviving loved ones a lot of mental, emotional, and financial difficulty upon your passing. Nonetheless, probate issues can arise even with a comprehensive estate plan in place.
California probate is the legal process in which a deceased person's estate is settled and distributed. The probate process can be time-consuming and expensive. At The Law Offices of Daniel Hunt, our probate attorneys have successfully advocated on behalf of many clients in a variety of probate issues. With decades of experience in probate law, founding attorney Daniel A. Hunt is a frequent lecturer and speaker in the area of probate law. To learn how we can help you with your probate issue, contact our Sacramento probate law firm today.
Why do People Need Probate Attorneys in California?
Simple estates can be filed and administered relatively easily in California. When the deceased individual had a will and a relatively simple estate, a California probate court can quickly administer the estate. However, when interested party contests the will or other probate challenges arise, it is wise to hire a skilled probate attorney. Common legal issues in California probate law include the following:
- Ambiguities in the will
- Estates with more debts than assets
- Estates with unresolved claims
- Contested claims or creditors seeking the assets of the estate
- The discovery of multiple wills
Comprehensive Representation Throughout the California Probate Process
In California, many probate proceedings take between six and 12 months. At The Law Offices of Daniel Hunt, we represent our clients throughout the entire probate process according to California probate law and the wishes of the decedent. We help clients navigate all of the following probate administration tasks.
Filing and Validating the Will
The first step in the California probate process is to file the deceased person's will with the appropriate California probate court. Our attorneys can help file the will and petition the probate court to appoint the personal representative designated in the will. If the deceased individual did not name a personal representative, the probate court will appoint one. In some instances, the probate court will appoint one of our attorneys as the personal representative. If not, we can assist the appointed personal representative in notifying the creditors and the beneficiaries of the estate.
Managing Obligations and Distributing Property
After filing the will, the administrator should gather all of the essential records and accounts. This aspect of the probate process can take time as some assets are challenging to find, especially when the deceased did not keep thorough records. After gathering all relevant documents, the administrator should pay creditors who have a claim to the estate. Some assets transfer automatically to beneficiaries.
Typically, in a living trust, the assets of the trust pass automatically to the beneficiary upon the creator of the trust’s death. Similarly, assets in some bank accounts and retirement accounts transfer automatically to a beneficiary upon the account owner’s death. After ensuring that assets have automatically passed to the beneficiary and ensuring that creditors of the estate receive payment, the administrator will begin to distribute the remaining property to the beneficiaries.
Administrators have a legal duty to distribute the assets according to the terms of the will. Finally, once the estate administrator distributes all of the assets in the estate, he or she will petition the California probate court to close the estate. When the assets are relatively easy to access, and nobody challenges the will, the probate process can be relatively straightforward.
Common Challenges to Wills
After the personal representative files the will, interested parties can challenge the will. Interested parties include heirs of the deceased, creditors of the estate, and beneficiaries named in the testator's will. When the testator uses a computer program or a will template found on the internet, the will may be susceptible to a challenge. In addition to challenging a will due to lack of proper execution, interested parties can also challenge the will based on the following:
- The testator engaged in fraud when creating the will
- The will lacks the necessary witnesses
- Another person tricked the testator into signing the will
- Another person exerted undue influence over the testator during the creation of the will
- The testator lacked the required mental capacity to create his or her will
- The testator made mistakes in the will
- The testator improperly revoked a previous will
- Multiple wills surface
Time Limits for Contesting a Will
Interested parties must contest the will before the court schedules the probate hearing. If an interested party fails to contest the will before the hearing, he or she only has 120 days from the hearing date to file a petition to revoke the will from probate. The probate court must send notice of a will contest to all interested parties.
The parties have 30 days to file an answer to the will contest. The personal representative of the estate carries the burden of proving that the will is legally valid. After conducting a hearing regarding the will contest and examining the evidence, a probate court judge can void a will in its entirety or strike some of the provisions of the will.
Navigating Complex Probate Cases in Sacramento
The Law Offices of Daniel Hunt can help administer the estate of the decedent and distribute assets to beneficiaries per the will. Additionally, we also offer our clients assistance in other issues that could arise in the probate process:
- Will contests
- Probate litigation
- Post-mortem tax planning
- Conservatorships for incapacitated or incompetent adults
- Guardianship proceedings for minors
- Trust administration
- Challenging trustees
- Real estate sales
- Beneficiary representation
- Executor representation
- Challenging estate administrators
- Bringing or challenging petitions for probate
Our Probate Administration and Litigation Attorneys can Help
At The Law Offices of Daniel Hunt, we understand how challenging the aftermath of a loved one’s death can become. Hiring skilled probate attorneys can be extremely beneficial. Whether you need assistance administering a loved one’s estate or with a litigation issue, our experienced attorneys can help. To learn how our skilled attorneys can assist you, contact our Sacramento law firm today to schedule your initial consultation.