Welcome to the Burstein Law Firm. Our goal is to help guide you through what can be a complicated probate process in California. Our law firm specializes in the related areas of estate planning and administration wills and trusts, guardianships and conservatorships, elder law and probate. We have over 20 years of experience that we will use to ensure you receive the best possible legal advice and representation when it comes to financial planning for later in life and for executing your wishes after death. We offer a free case evaluation for those who have questions about California probate.
Probate is the legal process of determining if a will is valid, transferring property from the deceased to his or her heirs, and resolving any other financial matters for the person who died. If there is a will, the executor is responsible for these transactions. If there is no will, an administrator is appointed by the court. California's judicial branch estimates that probate typically takes 9 to 18 months, though more complicated cases need more time to settle.
Not all estates have to go to court to be settled. For example, when property is owned by more than one person in a joint tenancy, it goes directly to the survivor after he or she establishes identity. This also is the case when community property is titled with the right of survivorship. Property that is owned under a contract that lists beneficiaries, such as life insurance, also bypasses probate court.
When an estate does have to go to probate court to be settled, it can be overwhelming. Experts recommend heirs hire qualified probate attorneys to help guide them through the process, especially because they can be held personally responsible for any violations of the extensive rules.
Probate begins with the executor filing the will in probate court within 30 days of the death. This typically costs several hundred dollars. Then, the executor will be allowed to settle any debts the deceased had at the time of death. Creditors in California have four months to file claims. After the bills and taxes have been paid, the estate can be closed and the remainder transferred to the heirs.
During the course of probate, other expenses may be incurred, such as fees for the executor and appraisal costs for property. Probate attorneys' fees, however, are not fluid and are set by California state law. The amount is determined by the value of the estate. Lawyers may charge 4 percent of the first $100,000 of the gross value of the estate. The percentage decreases to 3 percent for the next $100,000 and to 2 percent for the next $800,000. After that, it's 1 percent for the next $9 million and 0.5 percent of the next $15 million.
Because probate attorneys are such an integral part of settling many probate cases, it is vital that you hire the most qualified probate lawyers. At The Burstein Law Firm, we are committed to making this process as smooth as possible while preserving the value of the estate and the wishes of your loved one. Contact us today at 310-391-1311 for a complimentary, no-obligation consultation.