probate-attorney-antiochWhen it comes to estate planning, most people wonder what probate is and why they would 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 – to save time and money.

Probates can be a multi-year process, during which all assets are tied up. Nothing is distributed to the beneficiaries until the probate process is complete. Probate requires court appearances. Every time I appear in court on behalf of a probate client, I see people who are trying to handle a probate on their own. In nearly every case, the judge tells them everything they have done wrong and then sets a new court date for them to return with those items fixed. Each court date adds a six to eight week delay to their case. Sometimes the person is on their second or third appearance for the same issue. This process may take an experienced attorney one to two years, but commonly takes an unexperienced executor several years to complete. Moreover, the executor is on the hook for everything, which means they are financially responsible if assets are not handled to the standards of the courts, and they may have to reimburse the estate for those mistakes.

When most people think of assets or beneficiaries or estates, they think of a financial or property inheritance. Undergoing probate significantly reduces the amount of the deceased person’s assets that are transferred to their beneficiaries. 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 their work. You can see the probate schedule by clicking here. Additionally, the executor of the estate is entitled to the same fee. There are other fees associated with probate, such as court costs, bond fees, and probate referee fees. A typical probate involving a house and a few bank accounts in California runs about $30,000. All of these fees are taken out of the estate and then the remainder is passed on to the beneficiaries.

When selecting your probate attorney, it is most important to consider their level of expertise and service, not their fee, because all probate attorneys are entitled to the same statutory fee. An inexperienced attorney can delay the probate process just as much as a person trying to do their own probate, adding months, or even years, to the probate process by making rookie mistakes that an experienced attorney would not make. As a California State Bar Certified Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law Specialist, you can rest assured that my expertise and specialization will make your probate process as short as possible.

Unfortunately, it is estimated that 70% of Americans do not have an estate plan. If you find yourself grieving the loss of a loved one who did not implement a legally-binding probate avoidance strategy, our office can help. We know this time is emotional, and as your attorney, I will guard your time and assets fiercely, making sure that your probate process happens as fast as legally possible to produce the greatest results for all beneficiaries. If you have any questions, please call our office at 925-754-2000.