People may be familiar with the term “probate,” but may not be aware of what the process actually involves. In short, probate administration is a court-managed proceeding in which a deceased individual’s assets are managed and distributed. While this seems simple enough, it is essential to have proper legal representation to navigate the process.
Biddle Law provides advice and counsel to clients on the probate process in San Mateo, California as well as Belmont, Burlingame, and Foster City. Our probate attorneys routinely represent personal representatives and administrators in probate court, prepare the necessary filings and handle tax-related issues. We are also well versed in the state’s intestacy laws and advise clients when a loved has died without a will in place.
The Probate Administration Process in California
Probate proceedings in California are managed by the superior court of the county in which the decedent lived. The individual who has been appointed the personal representative is responsible for carrying out the instructions of the will. If the decedent did not create a will, a family member or close friend must petition the court to be appointed as administrator.
A personal representative is tasked with a variety of duties, starting with validating the will in the probate court. In addition, he or she must file all required notices to beneficiaries and prepare an inventory and appraisal of the estate assets. If there are outstanding debts, these must be paid from the estate proceeds and any other creditor claims must be resolved. While there are no state estate taxes in California, it may be necessary to prepare, file and pay federal estate taxes. It is also necessary to file final income taxes of the decedent. Lastly, the personal representative distributes the estate assets to the beneficiaries and closes the estate.
A personal representative can be reimbursed for legitimate expenses and may also be entitled to a statutory fee that is based on the size of the estate. However, a personal representative has an obligation to fulfill his or her fiduciary duties on behalf of the beneficiaries and can be held liable for mismanagement of the estate assets. For this reason, it is essential to engage the services of an experience estate administration attorney.
Do all the estate assets need to be probated?
In California, certain types of assets are not required to be probated, including:
- Property in which title was held jointly
- California real estate subject to a transfer-on-death deed
- Retirement accounts such as IRAs and 401(k)s, with designated beneficiaries
- Life insurance policies
- Bank accounts with “pay on death” (POD) designations
- Property owned by a living trust
In addition, if the value of the estate assets is less than $150,000, a formal probate proceeding is not required. Instead, the beneficiaries only need to file a small estate affidavit with the court. Although this is relatively straightforward, it is essential to consult with our attorneys to determine whether or not certain assets are included in a small estate as well as to complete and file the affidavit.
Contact Our Probate Administration Attorney in San Mateo, CA
With offices in San Mateo and Belmont, California, Biddle Law works closely with personal representatives and administrators throughout the entire estate administration process. We recognize that grieving the loss of a loved one is a difficult experience and offer each client knowledge, compassion and a superior level of personal service. Contact us for a consultation with our experienced probate administration attorney.
Biddle Law proudly serves the areas of San Mateo County, Burlingame, Foster City, San Carlos County, Redwood City and Belmont, California. Give us a call!