When someone passes away, their property and assets are distributed to their beneficiaries via an administration of their trust or estate. If the decedent owned assets in their individual name which exceeded a value of $184,500, then the method of administration is typically through a process known as probate. The probate process requires several steps to occur both in and out of court before it is complete.
If you are uncertain about the probate process in San Luis Obispo, an experienced estate planning attorney can help. The legal team at Toews Bio & Abram, Inc can help you navigate the responsibilities of being an estate’s executor or administrator, as well as advocate for your rights as a named beneficiary or heir.
Filing a Petition
The probate process starts when the decedent’s personal representative files a petition in the proper venue. The appropriate venue is the Superior Court located in the county where the decedent resided at the time of their passing. Generally, the court will schedule a hearing within 30 days of this petition being filed.
It is not enough to file this petition and forget about it. Upon filing the Petition for Probate, the personal representative is required to publish notice and mail notice to specific persons, including the beneficiaries and other interested persons. In San Luis Obispo County, the initial filings are done utilizing Court approved forms. While these forms may seem to be as simple as “fill-in-the-blank”, they contain significant details that are oftentimes missed. The San Luis Obispo probate attorneys at Toews Bio & Abram specialize in the probate process and are intimately familiar with the intricacies of the State, and county, specific probate process.
Proving the Will
If the decedent executed a last will and testament prior to their death, then the court must determine if it is valid before moving forward with the probate process. This is known as “proving” the will. When a valid will has been properly signed, in the presence of two witnesses, and contains specific required language, the will is considered “self-proving.” In these cases, the process of proving the will requires nothing more than submitting a copy of the “self-proving” will to court. Other times, an interested party may challenge the decedent’s mental capacity at the time they executed their will or evaluate other potential basis which may invalidate the will. Once the superior court determines the will is valid, and no challenges are presented, the court will appoint the executor (also known as the personal representative or administrator) to probate the assets of the estate.
Collecting and Distributing Assets
After an executor is appointed, their first major task is to identify and collect the assets owned by the decedent. This process involves contacting banks and brokerage firms, insurance companies, and potentially investigating any unknown sums which are required to be paid to the decedent. It is impossible to distribute these assets without first cataloging and evaluating them. An experienced San Luis Obispo probate attorney provides crucial assistance in this process.
Similarly, before distributing assets, an executor or administrator must identify the decedent’s debts, creditors and other liabilities. This includes evaluating, negotiating and paying claims by creditors of the estate. It also involves advising on the preparation and filing of tax returns. Once creditor claims are addressed, the executor can petition the court to allow the assets to be distributed to the beneficiaries based on the terms of the will or, if there is no valid will, California’s intestacy laws.
Reach Out to a San Luis Obispo Attorney About the Probate Process
Navigating the probate process in San Luis Obispo can be a complicated ordeal—especially if you are unfamiliar with its rules and requirements. Having seasoned legal counsel on your side can help you avoid any mistakes that lead to delays or put the estate at risk.
Do not attempt to handle probate alone. Reach out today to discuss how a probate attorney at Toews Bio & Abram, Inc can help you resolve an estate.