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Biddle Law Estate Planning Blog

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

What You Should Know About Probate

Losing a loved one can be hard. But when you add in having to deal with their estate it can get extremely difficult and often overwhelming – especially if it goes to probate.

Probate is the settling of an individual’s estate by a court-appointed executor. Although it can be simpler if the estate fits within a certain tax bracket, when it does not it can require a long, often expensive court process, sometimes lasting years. 

Can You Avoid Probate?

If the executor is able to prove that all debts have been paid by the value of the estate and there are no significant debts remaining, probate can be avoided. Should this be the case, the court will likely choose between settling the estate, and using an affidavit. 

When an individual passes without a valid will and a clear, legal estate plan or if Medicaid or other social services are involved, things can become even trickier. These difficult cases will usually be found to warrant probate.

How Long Does the Probate Process Last?

Probate generally takes several months to complete, even if the deceased had a will. The process begins with an individual (the executor, widow/er, family lawyer, etc.) filing the will with a probate court. This can also be joined with filing a death certificate.

How Does Probate Work?

When probate is required, so too will be the following steps:

  1. A hearing is held at which a judge determines whether or not the will is valid. If there is no will, heirs of the estate may receive a summons to attend the hearing. During this hearing heirs can share any concerns they may have regarding the estate.
  2. Next an executor is appointed. A judge will choose the individual who is designated in the will, a legal heir, or a surviving spouse. However, they may still choose to decline the position. Both the heirs and the appointed executor will then sign documents in order to make their positions official. 
  3. Once the executor has been determined and confirmed, he or she is responsible for ensuring that all creditors be notified of the decedent’s death. The executor will also prepare tax returns for the deceased individual and will confirm whether or not there are any additional undocumented debts.
  4. After all debts have been paid, the executor will then file the appropriate paperwork and begin distributing assets to the correct beneficiaries. Should no valid will exist, the court will decide on who are the proper heirs.

The estate can finally be settled once the prior steps have been met.

Biddle Law Helps Those in California Who Are Dealing with Probate Issues

Once the probate process is complete and understood by the relevant parties, it can help to ease any tension, fears and uncertainty often associated with it. The relevant laws serve to protect the estate any everyone involved. Sometimes the most important thing that you can do is exercise patience – and call an experienced attorney. 

At Biddle Law we want to ensure that both the decedent and the heirs get what they deserve. We will fight to minimize the necessary time and money needed. Let us help you with any of your probate questions and needs. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, call us at 650-560-7655 today!


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Biddle Law is located in San Mateo and Belmont and services San Mateo County including San Carlos, Burlingame and Foster City.



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