Has there been a death in the family? We can assist those left behind in settling the affairs of the decedent and transferring the assets to the heirs and beneficiaries in a timely and efficient way. While the administration of a will or trust can smoothly, that is not always the case. Disagreements are common occurrences among heirs and beneficiaries when going through probate.
Understanding how to navigate the probate process is vital to the proper distribution of assets. If you find yourself needing assistance with probate in San Luis Obispo or anywhere in California, our dedicated probate attorneys will be happy to provide you with that assistance. Our team at Toews Bio & Abram, Inc. is here to help people initiate probate, identify the correct heirs (if no will exists), evaluate the legality of a will or other testamentary documents, and pursue motions in court that help retain control over the probate process. Each of the attorneys with Toews Bio & Abram, Inc. is a certified specialist in Estate Planning, Trust, and Probate Law. Speak with a San Luis Obispo probate lawyer at our office to get started.
What is Probate?
Before going any further, it is important to understand what probate is and why you may need assistance. As a San Luis Obispo lawyer could explain, probate is a court proceeding to determine who is entitled to receive the assets of a deceased person. If a decedent passed away owning assets with a fair market value exceeding $188,500, a probate will be necessary.
If the decedent left a will, the court determines whether the will is a valid document and resolves any objections to the will based on lack of capacity, fraud, or undue influence. If there is no will, the court appoints an administrator and orders the distribution of the assets to the decedent’s statutory heirs. Many times, this process can be relatively quick and easy, but it can be lengthy and difficult if the will is contested or if there are other disputes concerning the estate.
Starting the Probate Process
The petition to initiate probate contains vital information about the decedent and their property. More specifically, the petition must include:
- The date and place of the decedent’s death
- The character and estimated value of estate property
- The name and address of all known relations to the decedent
- A copy of the decedent’s will (if any)
A San Luis Obispo probate attorney can counsel executors or administrators on whether assets can be transferred without probate or whether court probate is required. Where probate is needed, our specialist attorneys will prepare all documents that need to be filed with the court, such as petitions, accountings, statutory notices, and so forth, and render ongoing advice to the executor regarding his or her duties as administrator of the estate.
Handling Issues That May Arise During Probate
Probate serves as the way for the members of an estate to ensure that a decedent’s property is distributed to the correct parties. It is understandable that the named heirs in a will, as well as other family members, will have a significant stake in the outcome of this process. A number of issues may arise during probate that have immense legal repercussions.
Contesting a Will
One of the most common legal hurdles during probate is a dispute over the authenticity of the will. In general, a probate court will presume a will to be valid if it includes the signature of the testator as well as those of at least two witnesses who observe the signing. However, a will may be found to be invalid due to fraud, duress, or other forms of impropriety.
Problems With Personal Representatives
Questions can also arise during probate concerning the actions of personal representatives. Personal representatives have the sole authority to take temporary control of estate property and distribute it to the proper heirs. At the same time, they have a duty to help estate property retain its value until the time for distribution comes. Disputes often arise when personal representatives fail in this duty. A probate lawyer could help evaluate the actions of a personal representative to determine whether they have violated this duty.
Contact a San Luis Obispo Probate Attorney
The attorneys at Toews Bio & Abram, Inc. can prepare all necessary documents that need to be filed and also provide advice to the personal representative during the duration of the probate process. Contact a skilled San Luis Obispo probate lawyer at our office to learn more about what we could do for you.