Probate Lawyer Mission Viejo, CA

Probate Lawyer in Mission Viejo CA

Probate Lawyer Mission Viejo, CA

If you need assistance probating an estate, you should speak to a probate lawyer in Mission Viejo, CA. The probate process can be pretty intimidating, so it’s wise to have someone knowledgeable and experienced on your side. A lawyer can guide you through the process and answer all your questions.

Common Myths About Probate

Probate refers to the process in which a will is proved valid in court. Although the process has been around for quite some time, there are still many misconceptions.

  • Probate always takes years to complete. One of the main reasons people are put off by probate is because they assume it will take years to complete. However, probate usually doesn’t take multiple years to complete. How long the process takes will depend on several factors, such as the estate’s value and whether or not there are family disputes. If the estate is relatively simple and no one tries to challenge the will, probate can typically be completed within a year.
  • Probate will eat up all the estate assets. Some people also fear that there will be no assets left for heirs once the probate costs are paid. Fortunately, this isn’t true. While probate does cost money, it doesn’t cost nearly as much as people think. The costs are usually less than five percent of the entire estate. 
  • If you die without a will, the state will receive your assets. This is another big myth you shouldn’t believe. As a probate lawyer in Mission Viejo, CA can confirm, your spouse and children will likely be the first people to receive your assets if you die without a will. The only way assets will go to the state is if no relatives can be found.
  • An estate with a will doesn’t have to go through probate. Another common misconception is that if the decedent had a will, the estate doesn’t have to go through the probate process. Just because a will is in place doesn’t mean the estate gets to skip the probate process.
  • It isn’t necessary to hire a lawyer. Probating an estate can involve many complexities, so it’s a good idea to have a skilled lawyer on your side. They can speed up the process and make sure you don’t make costly mistakes.

4 Things You Need To Know About Probate

Probate is a standard legal process for a deceased person’s estate. If you’re going into it sight unseen, it’s natural to feel a bit scared. But knowing more of the basics about probate can help you understand what to expect. As you consult a probate lawyer in Mission Viejo, CA, here are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind.

Probate Is a Multistep Process

The probate process starts after someone has died. The whole point of probate is wrapping up loose ends with the person’s estate. While it can be a bit complex, there are usually five main parts to the process:

  • Determining a will’s validity
  • Appointing an executor
  • Establishing “date of death” asset values
  • Settling debt claims by creditors
  • Distributing remaining assets

People usually name executors in their wills. Unless someone objects to the choice of the executor, the judge usually appoints this named individual. If the person died intestate — without a valid will—the judge could choose a next-of-kin family member as executor.

Nothing Happens Before the Will Is Validated

Authenticating the will is the very first step — this must occur before any assets are distributed, or debts are paid. A probate judge holds a hearing that beneficiaries and potential heirs-at-law may attend. Assuming there are no issues with the will, the judge will declare it valid and move on with the rest of the probate process.

Debts Are Paid Before Assets Are Distributed

Executors have an important job on their hands. Part of settling a person’s estate involves locating both assets and debts. If the deceased kept good records, this could be reasonably easy. But executors need to do their due diligence and track down any hidden assets. They may also need to work with appraisers to determine asset values as accurately as possible. Knowing the estate’s total value is critical: This tells the executor, the court, and potential heirs how much it’s worth — and whether there’s enough to take care of unpaid taxes and debts.

The Executor Files a Final Tax Return

You’ve heard the saying, “Nothing’s certain except death and taxes.” The executor of an estate must deal with both, namely preparing and filing the deceased’s final tax return. This may include income and estate taxes, which are paid with funds from the estate. You can learn more from a probate lawyer in Mission Viejo, CA.

Benefits of Hiring a Probate Lawyer

If a family member has recently died and left behind an estate, the assets in that estate may likely have to go through a probate process. When the process is complete, the decedent’s heirs will receive their inheritances. Since probate can be complex, working with a probate lawyer in Mission Viejo, CA, is recommended. Here are a few benefits of hiring a lawyer.

  • Finish the process quicker. If you attempt to handle probate independently, you might make certain mistakes and delay the process. No one wants that. On the other hand, hiring an experienced lawyer can get through the process much quicker. A probate lawyer won’t have to go through a learning curve and can help you get on with your life faster.
  • Reduce liabilities. As an executor, you have many tasks on your plate, from paying debts to distributing assets to heirs. If you make errors in the process, you may be held financially responsible. This is another good reason to hire a skilled probate lawyer. They have experience with the probate process and can perform the tasks more accurately, reducing your liabilities. 
  • Allow you to spend time with loved ones. Probating an estate can be stressful and time-consuming. When you’re grieving the loss of a family member, the last thing you want to deal with is probate. You want to spend time with your loved ones instead and support one another through this tough time. If you hire an experienced probate lawyer, you will be able to do all of this. They will handle the legwork and may contact you periodically to ask questions.
  • Don’t worry about upfront fees. An important thing to keep in mind about probate lawyers is that they don’t charge you any upfront fees. When the case is resolved, your lawyer will get paid through the proceeds of the estate.
  • Minimize disputes. When you’re probating an estate, the last thing you want is for a dispute to arise. If a beneficiary feels like something may be unfair, they may choose to challenge the estate in court. This can prolong the process and lead to a lot of stress. This is less likely to happen with a skilled probate lawyer on your side. A lawyer will make sure everything is handled professionally and efficiently. 

Schedule a consultation with our probate lawyer in Mission Viejo, CA, by contacting Heritage Law, LLP today!

What to Look for in a Probate Lawyer

There are a few factors you want to look for in a probate lawyer before making a selection. Doing so will ensure that you gain the correct representation you deserve. Some factors to consider before choosing a probate lawyer include:

  • Their experience and qualifications. Not only do you want to hire a lawyer who is well-versed in probate cases, but also one who have had worked on similar cases as yours. Doing so will ensure that your lawyer can fully represent you and your needs. 
  • The successes in their past. You will also want to look at their past cases to see if they have won and if the clients they have represented are satisfied with the results. Additionally, it’s smart to make sure they have never run into any issues such as a disciplinary bar hearing. 
  • How well they work with you. Lawyers might do things differently and have different styles of communication. That’s why it’s important to make sure that you get along and work well with any attorney you hire. You should feel comfortable working with them and they should be able to accurately represent your needs and interests. 
  • Availability and expenses. Lawyers can be both costly and busy which is why you want to make sure that any lawyer you hire is within your budget and also has the necessary availability to work on your case. 

How Much Does a Probate Lawyer Cost? 

The cost of a probate lawyer in California can vary depending upon the situation and the value of the estate. Although some lawyers might request an upfront retainer fee, for many cases you won’t need to initially pay any upfront costs to the lawyer. Instead, you will pay a percentage of the estate to the lawyer as compensation. For the first $100,000, this percentage is typically four percent. For the second $100,000, this percentage drops down to three percent then two percent for $800,000, and finally one percent for anything that’s a million or more. 

With these figures in mind, while a probate lawyer will cost more as the value of the estate rises, they will also be paid a lesser percentage as the value goes up. With the amount of work that a lawyer will conduct both on steps such as filing and more complex steps like mediation, this is typically seen as a favorable outcome. 

How Can I Resolve a Probate Dispute?

For many families, probate disputes occur because of a failure to plan prior to the death of a family member or loved one. Speaking with a probate lawyer in Mission Viejo, CA can help you move through the probate process, but proactively resolving probate matters through Heritage Law, LLP before the estate or property owner dies can reduce the likelihood of a dispute. However, if you find yourself facing a probate dispute, here are several tips to work toward resolution.

1. Work With a Mediator

The days and weeks following the death of an individual are emotional and painful for friends and family. It is common for family members to accept and process the death in different ways, and the grief process or prior family issues can complicate the probate process. A mediator is a neutral third party that can speak on behalf of the parties without creating unnecessary drama or strife.

2. Use an Independent Fiduciary

Feelings get hurt and family members are often offended when someone from the family is named the trustee or executor of the will. If you want to avoid possible conflict, a person can decline to be the executor and choose an independent fiduciary instead. This limits the division and settlement according to personal emotions or past experiences and allows for neutrality in the division of property. Heritage Law, LLP offers a number of estate and trust services, in addition to probate services.

3. Think About Asset Liquidation

Some estates don’t seem to be divided evenly among family members, simply given the cost of certain assets at the time of death. If there is a concern that one individual won’t be getting as much value as another, consider liquidating the assets. Selling a property or a vehicle and dividing the cash value may reduce disputes and be more equitable to all.

4. Consider Sentiment but Remain Fair

There are always certain items in a home that family members regard as sentimental, perhaps the dining room set, favorite dishes, wall hangings or other items that may not have tangible value. Even though small, these items can lead to disputes and family members at odds with each other. Determine a fair way to divide the household and sentimental items. Use a lottery system to award items of contention and have members take turns choosing other items.

You can also get help resolving a probate dispute from a probate lawyer in Mission Viejo, CA. Trying to resolve disputes peacefully can minimize family drama.

FAQ: Common Questions About Probate

As a probate lawyer in Mission Viejo, CA, knows, the probate process can be incredibly frustrating. A testator who works with a lawyer will likely spend much of their time strategizing ways to minimize the number of assets that go through probate. Probate is often a necessary burden for the executor and the decedent’s family before resolving the estate.

Probate is a required legal process that involves validating the will and ensuring that all debts are paid before the distribution of assets. At times, things can go awry during the process, especially when a person passes away without a will; a family member stakes a claim on the estate, or families cannot agree. However, with the proper planning with Heritage Law, LLP, it may be possible to circumvent the turmoil when a person passes. 

What is needed for a will to be deemed valid by probate court?

When developing a will, one of the top priorities is to ensure that it is valid when the time comes for it to take effect. A probate lawyer in Mission Viejo, California shares that probate court will carefully review the will to confirm the document. Typically they will check the date of the will, check for the testator’s signature, and confirm that there are two signatures signed by witnesses. Additionally, the testator must have completed the will without undue influence and be free of fraud.  

What happens if someone contests the will?

When the will is contested, the probate process stops, making an already cumbersome process even more time-consuming. Challenging a will often involve litigation, and should this occur, the original will may ultimately become invalid. 

What are common mistakes made during the probate process?

The first mistake happens long before the probate process: dying intestate or having an improperly executed document. Because the estate administrator or executor manages the process alongside the courts, the mistakes are often missteps they have made. Examples include:

  • Waiting too long to initiate the process
  • Not taking a comprehensive inventory of assets
  • Paying beneficiaries before debts are settled
  • Failing to communicate clearly with beneficiaries
  • Mismanaging assets
  • Not hiring a lawyer
  • Paying the incorrect amount of estate taxes
  • What is the role of an estate executor? How should I choose one?

Choosing an estate executor is an important decision as they will be responsible for carrying out your wishes, resolving the estate, and distributing assets to beneficiaries. This is a significant responsibility, and you will want to make sure that the person of your choosing is up for the task. When choosing an estate executor, first inventory who may be responsible enough to take on this role. Additionally, as conflict may arise and executors may find themselves in difficult situations with beneficiaries, it can be easy to succumb to the pressure of grieving families. A person who can manage this type of conflict will be critical. Most importantly, before appointing them, make sure they are up for the task. Having upfront conversations ahead of time will allow you to outline your wishes clearly. A prospective executor will be able to ask questions and decide whether they are willing to take on this role. 

How Long Does a Probate Case Take?

Unfortunately, there are different factors that can affect the length of a probate case. For estates without lots of assets, very few heirs or beneficiaries, and no contention, the entire process may take a couple of months or less. For a more complex estate, the entire process can take two years or more. For the typical probate case in California, however, the average is closer to 12 to 18 months while the average for more simple cases is only nine months.  

For help with probate, contact our Mission Viejo, CA probate lawyer from Heritage Law, LLP.

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