When a person passes away, they leave behind all of their worldly possessions, including their home, belongings, and money. Luckily, we all have the option of drafting a will to define how we’d like our estate handled upon our death. A will can be used to leave your property to specific people, name a personal guardian to take care of minor children, and appoint an executor to carry out the terms of your will.
Formation & Control of the Estate
For starters, probate law establishes the formation and control of the estate. Upon the death of the descendant, all of their property creates an estate. This estate may contain the deceased’s income, investments, possessions, real estate, and all other property. In their will, a person may choose who they wish to be the executor of the estate. The executor of the estate assumes responsibility for ensuring that all remaining financial obligations are taken care of, including tax liabilities, paying off all remaining bills, canceling all credit cards, and notifying banks and business entities of your departure. The deceased’s last valid will established who the executor will be, and how they will manage and distribute the estate among the listed beneficiaries.
Probate Law and Spousal Rights
California probate law also establishes the right of the surviving spouse as a beneficiary. Since California is a communal state, spouses equally share all marital property. This marital property includes, but is not limited to all incomes, investments, real property, life insurance, all liquid assets earned during the marriage, and property the deceased acquired before the wedding, but still shared with their spouse during the marriage. So, when a person passes in California, their surviving spouse has an absolute right to at least half of their estate. This spousal right is constant even if the descendant intentionally left their surviving spouse out of the will. Once the spouse receives their fair half, the remaining estate is distributed amongst the remaining deceased’s beneficiaries.
Intestate Succession Laws
In the case that the deceased passed without a will, California probate law also establishes the line of intestate succession to determine who will inherit the estate. Surviving spouses are the first in the line of succession and will assume ownership and responsibility of the entire estate. If there is no surviving spouse, any biological or adopted children will equally inherit the full estate. If the decedent has no surviving spouse or children, any surviving parents are next in line, followed by any remaining grandparents, then siblings, and lastly more distant relatives. When there are multiple surviving relatives with the same relationship to the deceased, the estate is divided equally. If the court discovers that the decedent has no surviving relatives by blood or marriage, the court will take over the estate.
One of the significant benefits of leaving behind a will is that it can decrease probate cost and ensure that your property is used according to your wishes.
Probate is the administrative process of establishing the validity of a will and distributing assets accordingly. In California, the probate process can be complicated and expensive if initiated in the absence of a will. The property of individuals, who pass away without a will, is subject to California probate code; which only covers the amounts and percentages of the estate individual family members can inherit. The uncertainty of how to distribute the estate can lead to strife between loved ones and more in-depth supervision from a probate court, and therefore, even higher probate cost.
Court fees can eat into an estate and deprive your loved ones of the benefits you wanted them to receive. However, a qualified attorney can help you create a comprehensive estate plan, including a carefully constructed will and trust, that can decrease probate cost by simplifying the probate process. In some cases, a detailed will may help your surviving beneficiaries avoid probate court altogether.
Probate When There is No Will
While probate cost can become expensive, there are benefits to the probate process in the absence of a will.
Probate court provides a final solution to many unanswered legal challenges that arise when the deceased don’t leave behind a will. For starters, the probate court will resolve conflicting claims to property. Probate doesn’t guarantee that heirs won’t litigate disputes over inheritance, but intestate succession laws can give closure to some conflicts.
The probate process could also cut off some creditor claims. When someone dies, corresponding creditors should be notified of the debtor’s death. In California, beginning probate reduces the time in which creditors can file claims on the debt to 4 months after the letters were first issued, or 60 days after the last administration of notice was mailed. If a creditor’s claim is not filed or is untimely, the creditor may lose its legal right to the debt owed.
Lastly, probate may be necessary in some instances involving the transfer of title. Unless the real property is in a trust or a type of joint ownership, probate is typically needed to transfer the name on the title.
At the Law Offices of Ayanna L. Jenkins Toney, we understand that your estate is a reflection of your life’s hard work and planning. With years of experience, our legal team prides itself on providing clients with a sense of security through practical solutions to estate planning and asset protection. Our goal is to help you protect what is most important to you to successfully create a will best tailored to your needs and guide you through the complete probate process.
Estate Planning is the process by which a person develops a plan and legal documents to protect and distribute estate assets before and after death for the benefit of loved ones and charities. Estate planning can also provide for the use of your assets and your care if you become unable to care for yourself during your lifetime.
If you own a home, any savings, or valuable goods, then you own an estate. Planning for the future will allow you to decide who or what entity inherits your property, make decisions over your health care treatment, and protect the future of your minor or disabled children. A comprehensive estate plan may also help your loved ones avoid the public proceedings of a guardianship trial or costly probate.
Our law offices understand how essential it is to conserve and protect an estate, and for that reason, we dedicate considerable time to helping clients create comprehensive wills and trusts that are best suited to their needs. Having a will that has been prepared by an experienced attorney will provide you with the peace of mind that all aspects of your estate are covered. At the Law Offices of Ayanna L. Jenkins Toney, our legal group has a deep understanding of California’s various estate laws and will ensure that your will is valid in the eyes of the state. Our attorneys will inform you of all of your options and may even make you aware of options you didn’t know existed. Depending on your situation, our competent attorneys will help you design an estate plan that will best protect your assets and the future of your loved ones.
The Purpose of Trusts
In addition to a will, a trust can also be part of a comprehensive estate plan. In a nutshell, a trust is an arrangement in which one or multiple parties manage or take care of property for the benefit of another person. A living trust is a trust created during your lifetime, that transfers the title of property from you onto the trustee. In turn, that trustee will manage the contents of the trust following the guidelines you set beforehand.
A trust can be a perfect solution to gifting valuable property to minor children, seniors, or anyone who is unable to handle money responsibly. It could provide your loved ones with a steady source of income instead of a lump sum of money, or even be used to provide care or gifts to loved ones while still maintaining control over the property.
A trust has many benefits, including avoiding probate. Once you put your property in a trust, the trustee becomes the legal owner of the living trust. When you die only the property and assets you own are subject to probate. Therefore, since you no longer own the trust, it is not subject to probate.
Another benefit of a trust is that it provides financial privacy. Contrary to a will, a trust will not go public upon your death and your estate will be distributed in private.
There are several different trusts available. All have various benefits and legal intricacies. Speaking with our experienced legal team will inform you of all of your options to help you make the best legal decisions regarding the future of your estate.
Guidance Through the Probate Process
Probate is the court-administered process of distributing the deceased person’s assets according to a valid will. If there is no will, probate is the only way to transfer real property to the beneficiaries. In these cases, the estate is divided amongst the deceased person’s immediate family according to California’s probate code. In general, the whole process typically lasts about six to nine months.
The general purpose of the probate process is to account for all of the decedent’s assets and liquidate them into cash. After that, the representatives will attempt to negotiate a reduction in debt, pay all outstanding debts and taxes of the deceased, and distribute assets per will or to corresponding relatives according to probate code.
The Law Offices of Ayanna L. Jenkins Toney will move the probate process to a timely conclusion by handling all legal documents and procedures. Our offices will guide you through the complete probate process. We will walk you through your responsibilities, keep you informed at all times, and provide you with the support you need to make informed legal decisions. Our team of professionals can help you through every level of the probate procedure.
If you want the best estate planning possible, you will need to take extra care when creating a comprehensive estate plan. In situations like these, it can be extremely beneficial to hire an experienced estate attorney to guide you through the probate process. It can be easy to make grave errors when planning the future of your estate alone. These errors can be costly and may even cause the will to be invalid in the eyes of the state. Luckily, you don’t have to do it alone.
At the Law Offices of Ayanna L. Jenkins Toney, our experienced legal team will help you achieve an error-free plan. With the help of our qualified attorneys, you can confidently face the future knowing all aspects of your estate are protected and the future of your loved ones is secure. With the future of your life’s work on the line, it is critical that you plan with the legal advice of a qualified estate attorney. Call our San Francisco offices today to set up a consultation.