When someone passes away in California without a Trust, state law establishes specific processes for how their assets are distributed to beneficiaries. In most situations, at least some assets must go through a legal process called probate before any beneficiary can receive their inheritance. Disputes over named beneficiaries and the value of assets can complicate estate administration and delay distribution even further.
If you have been named as a loved one’s executor or have questions about how probate and similar proceedings work, a San Luis Obispo estate administration lawyer can provide the information you need. The capable probate attorneys at Toews Bio & Abram, Inc. can help you meet all legal requirements and distribute assets as efficiently as possible.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the court-supervised process through which ownership of assets and property transfers from a decedent to their beneficiaries, or heirs. If the decedent had a Will, then the Will determines which beneficiaries will receive what assets and identifies an executor to oversee the probate process. If a decedent did not execute a Will, the California Probate Code determines who has priority to act as executor and are the beneficiaries of the decedent’s assets.
Before the distribution of assets can occur, the estate’s executor must ensure all outstanding debts and liabilities held by the decedent—including tax obligations—are paid or otherwise addressed in accordance with California law. Probate can take a year or more to complete, and many executors face challenges establishing the financial value of rare or unique assets. Guidance from a skilled San Luis Obispo estate administration attorney can be essential to avoiding delays while fulfilling a loved one’s final wishes.
When Is Probate Required?
Probate is typically only required by California law if the total value of a decedent’s estate equals or exceeds $184,500. In determining whether a decedent’s estate requires probate, the law considers the gross fair market value of assets owned by the decedent on their date of death. Certain assets are excluded from this total, including assets which transfer by operation of law. For example, retirement accounts with a designated beneficiary, pay-on-death accounts, or real property held in joint tenancy are not considered to be part of a decedent’s probate estate. Additionally, assets titled in the name of a decedent’s Trust is not utilized to calculate the probate threshold.
How a Lawyer Could Help With Estate Administration
Even outside of the probate process, administering an estate can be challenging without legal help. A knowledgeable lawyer can assist with many other aspects of the estate administration process in San Luis Obispo, including:
- Overseeing the distribution of property and assets to beneficiaries, as well as resolving disagreements and legal challenges;
- Advising on alternatives to probate through a Heggstad or spousal property petition;
- Modification or reformation of trusts;
- Preparing estate tax returns;
- Assisting with estate planning for beneficiaries.
Many people face challenges valuating specific assets, disputes over which beneficiaries should receive what property, or problems complying with state and federal laws. An experienced legal professional can provide crucial guidance with these tasks and make sure the estate administration process runs smoothly.
Contact a San Luis Obispo Estate Administration Attorney Today
Even when a loved one has clearly outlined their final wishes, estate administration can be a complex and stressful process. Retaining experienced legal counsel can be key to avoiding potential delays throughout the probate process and saving an immense amount of time, stress, and money for family members.
A San Luis Obispo estate administration lawyer can provide support from start to finish of your legal proceedings. Call Toews Bio & Abram, Inc. today to set up your free consultation.