Probate is the legal process of wrapping up financial matters and distributing property after a person has died. The decedent’s “estate” is the legal entity that holds title to all of the property until it is distributed.
Probate is required when someone dies in order to legally transfer title of certain assets to the appropriate beneficiaries, and to appoint someone to oversee the distribution of those assets. If a person dies with a will, the assets are distributed by the terms of the will. If a person dies without a will, the State of California will determine how assets are distributed. If a person dies with assets in a living trust, or has other non-probate assets (such as life insurance), then those assets are disposed of outside of the probate process and only any remaining assets that are not in the trust or otherwise non-probate pass through the process.
In California, the probate process is supervised by the court and can last anywhere from eight to 24 months. While probate is not necessarily complicated, there are many details that must be handled in a proper manner to avoid the risk of a lawsuit by heirs or creditors against the person managing the probate process (the executor). And unfortunately, the probate process can be emotionally taxing and create strife within otherwise harmonious families. For these reasons, many people chose to consult and work with an attorney who understands and focuses on probate law. By working with a knowledgeable probate attorney, you can feel confident that the process will be completed as quickly and accurately as possible and that assets are distributed correctly.
Guardianships are ordered through the probate court. Guardianships are necessary when a parent or parents cannot provide legally adequate care for their children, and someone else who is not a parent must take charge of caring for a child or children. Sparks Family Law, Inc. can assist you with either an uncontested guardianship or a contested guardianship in your efforts to ensure that a child or children are properly taken care of.
We will be introducing a comprehensive set of additional probate services later this year, including Estate Administration, Spousal Property Petitions, Litigation of Claims against an Estate, and Will Contests. Watch for an update in the near future. In the meantime, contact us or call (925) 465-2500 or (707) 398-6008 for more information.