Probate and Trust Administration
The probate and trust administration practice is an extension of the estate planning practice. David is a certified specialist in estate planning, trust and probate law and is able to effectively represent administrators, executors, and trustees in the administration of estates. We deal with simple and complex probates and help guide personal representatives through the process from the initial lodging of the will to the inventory stage to the accounting stage and through to final distribution and closing of the estate. We also help trustees deal with the requirements to administer a trust after the death of the settlor, including administration for a surviving spouse. We deal with unique and complicated issues in these situations such as real property title disputes, business entity disputes, and creditor claims.
We handle probates all over California. Probate is a legal process that takes place after a person dies. There might have been a will or the person may have died intestate (without a will). The probate is filed in the county where the person resided. Within 30 days of death, the executor is responsible for lodging the original will with the local probate court and then filing the necessary papers to open probate. Notice is given to the heirs of the decedent and published in a local paper of general distribution. It is a court supervised process with court hearings that aim to confirm the validity of the will and give the executor the power to manage the estate. The executor must ensure that the decedent’s bills are paid and inventory the decedent’s assets as of the date of death. A court probate referee will then value the assets for the court and the heirs. The executor has the power to sell property, compromise claims, and file tax returns. After all the property has been collected and sold, the executor can petition the court for approval to make a final distribution. The executor may also have to prepare an accounting of all receipts and disbursements during the pendency of the probate. We provide specific advice to the executor during each stage of the probate.
Probate is generally required if the decedent died with real property in his or her name. There are alternatives to probate, including property held in joint tenancy or property held in a living trust. In addition, if property in the decedent’s name is worth less than $166,250, no probate is required. Assets with proper beneficiary designations, such as IRA’s, life insurance, and 401K’s, are not subject to probate. The specific titling of assets can yield different results in different situations.
For those that die with property in a living trust, we assist the successor trustee in administering the trust according to the wishes of the decedent. We help the trustee with noticing the beneficiaries, collecting assets, and eventually distributing the trust assets. The trustee is responsible for managing the estate, selling assets, filing tax returns, preparing an account, and making a final distribution according to the terms of the trust. Each situation is different and can be especially complicated if there are multiple parcels of real estate, pending lawsuits, creditor claims, and contesting beneficiaries. We provide specific advice to the trustee during each step of the process.