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The ABCs of Probate

The ABCs of Probate

WHAT IS PROBATE?

Probate is required if a person has no Will.  Probate is also required even if a person has a Will.  Probate is required unless a person takes steps to avoid probate.

Probate is “proving the will” through a court proceeding.  If there is no will, the decedent’s property will pass to the decedent’s heirs according to California law.  Probate is an archaic process to collect the decedent’s assets, pay his bills, and distribute the decedent’s assets to the rightful heirs.  Notice must be given to relatives and creditors. Property cannot be distributed without the Judge’s approval.

WHO ARE THE PLAYERS?

Executor: The executor is the person named in the decedent’s will as the manager of the estate.

Administrator: The administrator is a court appointed executor.  If the decedent had no will, the administrator will act as the manager of the estate.

Beneficiary: The person named to receive the proceeds from the decedent’s will.

Heirs: Any person, including a surviving spouse, who is entitled to take property of the decedent.

Issue: All of the decedent’s lineal descendants of all generations.

Probate Estate: All of the decedent’s property required to go through probate.

IS PROBATE EXPENSIVE?

Probate is very expensive.  Any estate with a value of $150,000 or more, or with real estate with a value over $50,000 is subject to probate. The minimum probate statutory fee of an estate with a value of $200,000, is $14,000.

HOW LONG DOES PROBATE TAKE?

In addition to being expensive in terms of money, probate takes time. The smallest of estates takes 18 months.  Marilyn Monroe’s probate took 39 years. John Wayne’s probate took over 20 years. Because of the California budget crisis, probates are taking longer and becoming more expensive.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE STEPS REQUIRED TO PROBATE A WILL?

  • Filing the will with the court
  • Verification of the will
  • The appointment of an executor
  • Taking an inventory of assets belonging to the deceased
  • Giving notice to creditors
  • Paying the decedent’s bills
  • Paying taxes
  • Notifying beneficiaries
  • Distributing the assets to the beneficiaries
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