Here is a secret: Despite common belief, there are cheap probate options available in California and one of the best options is filing probate without an attorney!
This secret is not usually shared by attorneys as many of them will try to make potential clients fearful of filing probate without a lawyer. In fact, most estate executors can complete the probate process without legal representation if they have proper help.
Clearly, you should consult an attorney regarding the estate’s assets if heirs disagree over provisions of a will or if disputed creditors are involved. However, be aware that the California probate process requires little or no court appearances and matters set for hearing are, in most cases, pre-approved and routine.
Cheap Probate Options in California
Hiring an attorney to probate your loved one’s estate in California can be very costly. Probate attorney fees are based on a statutory percentage of the gross value of the decedent’s estate gross value which does not include deducted debts (mortgage or business/personal loans). For example, if the gross value of an estate is $250,000, the attorney can expect to receive a minimum of $8,000 in attorney fees. An attorney can also receive additional fees for “extraordinary services” such as when real property sells during the probate process. Essentially, what you can pay an attorney sometimes has no direct relationship to the amount of work the attorney puts into probating the estate.
Some of the most popular cheap probate options that may be available for your estate include the following:
1. Hire an Experienced Legal Document Preparer
Easily, the most stress-free cheap probate option in California is to hire an experienced legal document preparer.
Since not all non-attorney probate services are the same, it’s important to make sure you hire one with our years of probate experience.
Probate is such a specialized field that attorneys unfamiliar with probate often hire our company to help them with the paperwork and process for their clients. In this regard, although legal document preparers are trained on how to complete judicial and local court forms, not all legal document assistants are competent and well-versed with the probate forms and process.
Having been in business since 1980, A People’s Choice has prepared thousands of California probates and, as a result, our staff is very experienced with these matters. We can complete the forms you need to file with the court and help you manage the probate process. Also, our services extend beyond just form preparation. We will keep you on track with every step along the way and be there to help in any way we can. Our legal document preparation services cost substantially less than what an attorney would charge which means you will see a substantial cost savings with our service in comparison to working with an attorney and paying statutory fees.
2. Simplified Probate Procedures in California
There are also cheap probate options for smaller estates. These cheap probate options will only work, however, if the gross value of the estate is under $150,000. California has several simplified probate procedures that allow the estate’s executor to settle a decedent’s estate without having to go through the traditional probate process. Some of these cheap probate options are for estates without real property, and other options are for small estates with real property. For example, beneficiaries can submit a simple affidavit for personal property to handle the distribution of bank accounts, small stock accounts, and other small valued assets. One of the best cheap probate options for real property under $50,000 is using a small estate court affidavit. Lastly, for estates with real property under $150,000, there is a cheap probate option that requires one simple hearing to distribute the assets to the beneficiaries.
3. Spousal Property Petition
In addition to this simplified probate procedure, there are cheap probate options specifically set up to settle the spousal interest of a deceased spouse through a spousal property petition. A spouse can typically complete a spousal proceeding within a few months. A probate referee is not required and there is no maximum or minimum value of the estate to use this process.
4. File a Heggstad Petition
A Heggstad petition is commonly used when a decedent had a trust but, for whatever reason, failed to title high-value real estate or other assets in the name of the Trust. Filing a Heggstad petition allows a successor trustee to ask the court for permission to transfer the decedent’s assets into a trust after the decedent’s death. Transferring the decedent’s assets into his pre-existing trust will allow the successor trustee to distribute the asset as part of the trust and, as a result, avoid probate.
Contact A People’s Choice to learn more about the cheap probate options open to you in California. A People’s Choice has been in business since 1980, and our staff are experienced, professional and well-versed with the California probate procedures. Call us today at 800-747-2780. Please also visit our exciting new website ProbatebyME.com which is dedicated to probate and estate administration matters in California.
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