Next, the probate court waits for the decedent’s creditors to try to get paid. The creditors have four months to make a claim for payment. Once the creditors are notified and paid, the executor conducts an inventory and appraisal of the estate. All other debts and taxes are also paid.
Below are a few of the most common questions asked of our San Francisco Probate Lawyers.
Some assets are generally NOT subject to probate in California. If you leave any such assets to your beneficiaries, they will receive them upon your death without the requirement of the Probate process.
Probates are rarely simple. Some face tax issues, questions about the Will, financial asset problems, debt, and the occasional unhappy family member. Without proper legal guidance, the probate process could last for years, and your loved one’s last wishes might not be honored.
The most significant consequence of a mistake during probate is time; lost time. This is because you generally cannot just “fix” the mistake. Instead, you need to schedule another hearing. Most Probate courts are very busy, and the next available hearing date could be three to five months away. Lost time is the enemy. Time gives creditors more opportunity to file a claim. It provides more time for family members to contest. Real estate or stock markets may change, causing lost profits. We have worked with hundreds of families just like yours. And while mistakes can occur, we do everything possible to avoid mistakes. Because we understand that you want this wrapped up as quickly as possible, that’s what we do.
If an estate goes through Probate, the Probate records and documents are available and open to the public. This includes your Will, your assets, and all your debts. Your children’s names, dates of birth, addresses, and phone numbers. The whole world will know exactly how much money you left each child. The world will also learn how much you owe in back taxes, credit cards, and other debts. Your whole life will become public information.
If you want to keep your affairs private, you can use a Trust instead. A Trust allows you to distribute your assets without going through Probate, keeping the proceedings confidential. California Probate and Trust, PC will review the benefits of a Will and a Trust during our initial discovery meeting. Then, you can determine which path you want to take when creating your estate plan.
To avoid probate in California, the gross value of an estate must be no larger than $184,500. (For deaths before April 1, 2022, the minimum gross value of an estate requiring probate was anything over $166,250.) Understand that this is gross, not net value. For example, if you die today owning a house valued at $500,000, with a loan of $400,000, the equity in the home is $100,000. But for probate purposes, the gross value of $500,000 will trigger the requirement of the probate. Furthermore, executor and legal fees are based on a percentage of the gross value. This means that executor and legal fees are higher even though the amount of equity is modest.
Estates valued below these amounts do not have to go through probate. However, you must file a Small Estate Affidavit and still have to go to court and get a judge’s signature. This affidavit must be signed under oath and must include real estate property. If you’re unsure if your estate will need to go through probate, California Probate and Trust, PC can examine your case and provide legal guidance.