The main question people have is, “what is probate and why do I want to avoid it?” In the simplest terms, probate is the legal process of transferring the assets of a deceased person to the beneficiaries of their estate. There are two main reasons most people want to avoid probate.
First, probates can be a multi-year process during which all of the assets are tied up and nothing is distributed to the beneficiaries until the end of the probate. Second, in California we have a statutory fee schedule for probate which means we look at the gross value of your estate to determine the fee the attorney will be paid for doing his/her work. You can see the probate schedule by clicking here. Additionally, the executor of the estate is entitled to the same fee. Then there are other fees such as court costs, bond fees, and probate referee fees. All of these fees are taken out of the estate and then the remainder is passed on to the beneficiaries.
As much as we try and educate people, 70% of Americans do not have an estate plan which means most will end up in probate. If your loved one passes on without an estate plan that avoids probate by using something such as a trust, it is important to work with an attorney for the probate process.
Every time I appear in court I see people who are trying to do a probate on their own, which is an option. The common theme I see is that the judge is telling them all of the things they have done wrong and then asking them to come to a new court date with those items fixed. Sometimes the person is on their second or third appearance for the same issue. Therefore, the process that may take an attorney one to two years, commonly turns into a several year process for the layman. Moreover, the executor is on the hook for everything, which means they are financially responsible if assets are not handled to the courts standards and may have to reimburse the estate for those mistakes. The reason to hire our firm to handle your probate is simple, we ensure the process happens as fast as legally possible and most importantly we protect your interest so that as the executor you don’t end up owing the estate money for your mistakes.