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Probate / Estate Administration

Probate Administration

Most people become involved with the probate of an estate at some time during their life. Involvement may result from being named the executor of an estate or may be the result of being named a beneficiary or heir of an estate. Along the same lines, many people become involved in trust administration as either a trustee or a beneficiary. Regardless of the reason for your involvement, a basic understanding of probate process is essential.

The Probate Process

If you do not have a plan, your state has one for you, but you probably will not like it. When an individual dies, assets owned by the decedent make up the decedent’s estate. At your death: If you die without an intentional estate plan, your assets will be distributed according to the probate laws in your state. Probate, also referred to as estate administration, is the legal process used to identify, locate and value those assets as well as to transfer assets to the intended beneficiaries or heirs of the estate.

The probate process has disadvantages. Your estate and the value of your assets will become public record. Also, because lawyer’s fees and executor’s commissions are based on a statutory fee schedule, a probate may cost more than the management and distribution of a comparable estate under a living trust. Time can be a factor as well. A probate proceeding generally takes a minimum of seven to nine months and can linger for years, longer than the administration of a living trust.

There are a number of steps that must be taken between death and distribution of assets. Though each estate is unique, common steps found in the probate of most estates, include:

  1. Filing of a petition with the appropriate Probate Court.
  2. Notice to beneficiaries, heirs, and creditors of the estate.
  3. Executor/Administrator appointed.
  4. Inventory and appraisal of estate assets by Executor/Administrator.
  5. Claims filed by creditors and reviewed by Executor/Administrator.
  6. Payment of approved claims. Assets may need to be sold if the estate lacks liquidity.
  7. Preparation and payment of estate taxes.
  8. Final distribution of assets to beneficiaries and/or heirs.

Unfortunately, probate is unpredictable. That is why many people choose to avoid it. Given the choice wouldn’t you prefer these matters be handled privately by your family, not by the courts? Wouldn’t you prefer to keep control of who receives what and when? And, if you have young children, wouldn’t you prefer to have a say in who will raise them if you can’t?

The probate attorneys at Sowards Law Firm can help navigate the often complex probate system and/or assist with the administration of a trust. Sowards Law firm is honored to represent clients in Santa Rosa, Pleasanton, and throughout the State of California. To schedule an appointment to discuss your probate and trust needs, contact the firm today by calling (408) 371-6000.

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I really appreciate the time spent in explaining the process of preparing a Living Trust; the professionalism and friendliness of everyone! I also appreciate the presentation of the materials both binder/print and soft copies. I highly recommend Sowards Law Firm. Karen O'Brien
Ben and team recently helped us with a new estate plan. Their service was timely, thorough, and very professional. They patiently explained concepts we were unfamiliar with. We were very satisfied and recommend their firm without hesitation. Brian Giambattista
Ben was very professional & knowledgeable when tailoring the needs of my end of life documents. I have utmost confidence in his abilities and have no hesitation recommending him for estate management. Janet Burks Giambattista