Recently, there has been an increase in online DIY services for California probate and estate planning. These services vary greatly in what services are offered. With this in mind, they all have the same theme – offering people a lower cost way to file probate and avoid statutory fees that is considerably cheaper than hiring a probate attorney.  Services provided by online probate services vary from platform to platform.  Here is an overview of things to look for when you compare online probate services.

What our Clients Say...
“I cannot say enough about the time and money this company saved me. With their help I finished Probate in Tulare Co on my brother estate in little over 12 months. I am a letter carrier with no legal training, yet , I completed the entire process mainly because A People’s Choice walked me thru each step. They filed most papers electronically which resulted in me needing only three court appearances ( and saved me from many trips to Visalia. Keep in mind, all probates are different but if you have limited resources I recommend this company. The Probate Judge complimented me on the good work I received from A People’s Choice, saying this was not always to case with other legal help offices.”
Jack M.
“I used A People’s Choice to prepare and file documents to probate my sister’s estate.  I began the probate process in pro per and hired them after discovering the difficulty in processing the probate by myself.  Very knowledgeable with good technology to keep me informed.  Their fees were significantly less than what I would have had to pay for an attorney, yet their services were excellent. I can’s see where an attorney would have been any better (or as good). Highly recommend this service.”
Ron C.
“Can’t say enough about the level of service and professionalism I received working with A People’s Choice. Emails were always responded to quickly and thoughtfully. They really care about the process and helping you get the best result with no up-selling. Of course, they can’t provide legal advice, but I was referred to an attorney when I needed some questions answered who was very reasonable and easy to get a hold of as well. The process played out according to plan, and I ended up saving a lot of money by going with A People’s Choice over an attorney.”
M. Rice
“I am writing to give A People’s Choice my utmost recommendation. Living in New England, I found them on the web. After speaking with a staff member on the phone I had the confidence to give them my business. A People’s Choice handled my probate case with great professionalism and knowledge. My case turned out to be more complicated than originally believed, and the staff walked me through each step. They always responded promptly to my email questions. In the end, their service was exactly what I hoped for; they saved me thousands of dollars and allowed me to do it from across the country. They were truly a pleasure to work with.”
K. Levenson
“A People Choice provided excellent support with the appropriate legal documents and filing process in a spousal property petition after my husband passed. Lawyers wanted to charge me a fortune. However, once I spoke with someone at A People’s Choice, they took on my case and guided me through every step. A People’s Choice has years of experience, which gave me a sense of trust and confidence. I always got immediate feedback from every email request. If you need probate help, I would highly recommend A People’s Choice.”
Sylvia A
“I had a great experience with my California probate case using A People’s Choice! The people that assisted me were so helpful.  I certainly could not have done this probate by myself.  The best part was that I was able to save over $10,000 in lawyer fees!  All my emails were always returned so quickly. Needless to say, I am a very satisfied customer.  I would highly recommend A People’s Choice to all my friends and family!”
Joi C
“When my mother-in-law passed away last year, we didn’t know what to do. We contacted A People’s Choice and from day one they were very helpful. They held our hand every step of the way, and if I had a question any time of the day or night someone got back to me within a few hours. I highly recommend A People’s Choice if you don’t know what to do and don’t want to pay the high price of a lawyer, especially if you don’t have much money.”
Mikki C
“A People’s Choice helped us throughout our entire year-long probate making the process very easy and manageable while at the same time saving us thousands of dollars in lawyer’s fees. Not only were they extremely friendly and fast to respond to our questions but they made the process simple enough that we hardly ever had to contact the courthouse directly and we even had a hearing done without an appearance. Would highly recommend A People’s Choice to anyone!”
A. Vuckovich
“I must say that A People’s Choice is a very responsible and effective company. The staff there is very nice and replied to all my questions by email quickly. With their help, I accomplished the probate in 8 months successfully and saved at least $10,000.00 in attorney fees, so I strongly recommend everybody to contract with A People’s Choice and let them help you with your legal documents. You will be very satisfied with their work as I did!!!!”
C. Chiu
“Thanks to A People’s Choice, I was able to get through a probate matter very smoothly. I had not one issue with the Courts. They guided me through the whole probate until the very end. I live up north, but that didn’t matter, A People’s Choice did an excellent job keeping me informed with everything that I needed to do. I saved THOUSANDS of dollars by going with A People’s Choice. You can’t go wrong, no matter what your needs are. I saved a lot of money by not having to pay out a percentage to an attorney. Many thanks to the staff at A People’s Choice for the great help they give to everyone in their times of need like I was! Thank You.”
R. Leonard
“When my father passed away without a will, we needed help handling the transfer of his assets. Since there weren’t significant assets, I didn’t want to spend too much on the legal paperwork. A People’s Choice offered just the right service we needed. In particular, the staff was very responsive to our document filing needs, helping to turn around corrections almost immediately. They helped to ease a tough situation.”
Michael C.
“I used A People’s Choice for help with a probate matter. My grandfather died Christmas of 2016. He had a living trust, but no one was able to find it. We went to A People’s Choice, and we were able to do a probate affidavit to get what was left of my grandfather’s estate. Took two days for the documents to be prepared and the bank accepted them without any questions. Sandy was the one who assisted us, and we really appreciate the help that was provided. A+ service.”
David R.
“A People’s Choice worked on my probate case for over 1 year. Their knowledge, dedication, and commitment to clients are exceptional, preparing the required legal documents, and all the court filings. They used the e-filing system which really expedited the process. They always answered my emails in a very timely manner and were professional. The probate process is long and sometimes seems overwhelming. It’s also very expensive, A People’s Choice saved me thousands of dollars as compared to an attorney. I would highly recommend A People’s Choice for your probate needs. It’s cost effective, and they handle the entire process from beginning to end!”
C.K..
“Probate itself is a frustrating and expensive process. A People’s Choice was professional and courteous throughout a long probate process. Everyone I came in contact with at A People’s Choice was exceptionally helpful, patient, and professional. For those entering into the probate process, I must warn you that it is difficult to understand. The staff at A People’s Choice makes it as tolerable you could wish for.  The people who work there were kind, efficient, and understanding.  If you email your questions, they’ll get back to you and won’t make you feel like you are ignorant if you are unclear about any part of the process.”
Marcel B
“I needed help understanding and filling out legal documents, but I didn’t have enough money to pay for an attorney. After searching the internet, I found A People’s Choice. I was relieved to know that I would get the exact service that I needed at an affordable price. The staff was very professional and helpful with my legal documents. They worked around my schedule and responded to my emails in a timely manner. They took care of all the paperwork and filing and kept me posted. I would highly recommend A People’s Choice for your legal documents as you will get outstanding service at an affordable price.
Sharon B.
“After not having my call returned from a probate lawyer, I looked into doing a Spousal Property Petition myself.  A People’s Choice assisted me through the whole probate process and everything went smoothly.  When I appeared in court, I didn’t have to say a word. The judge just said, “granted.”  Using A People’s Choice I saved thousands of dollars, and I’m so glad that probate attorney didn’t return my call.  I highly recommend A People’s Choice.”
Donna G.
“A People’s Choice walked me through the entire probate process. This company is very professional and helpful and made a scary probate pretty much stress free. I would send an email with a question I had thought of over the weekend with the expectation I would get an answer on Monday but lo and behold, I often got an answer within minutes! Thank you to the staff for your guidance and patience to talk me through such a difficult time. You made the process very smooth! Probably saved us about $10,000! We are very pleased and will be referring our friends/family to A People’s Choice!”
L. Garrett.
“I had hoped to have my probate process taken care of by myself to save money. After the fourth attempt to file at the Clerk’s office, I left in tears and faced the reality of hiring an attorney. I look on the internet to find one and came across A People’s Choice. They offered a price that was way below what attorneys charge! They guided me through every step of the process and wrote up all the paperwork so that all I had to do was sign. It was really an amazing experience. They are a pleasure to work with.”
D. Chase.
“Thank you so much for all your help through this California probate process.  By using your company instead of a California probate lawyer, we were able to cut our expenses dramatically.  Thank you for answering my many questions and for giving me a heads up on documents that could be prepared in advance in order to save time and money.  There was always someone available to help! Thank you again.”
Craig K.

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Things to Consider When You Compare Online Probate Services

This article will cover three areas of discussion that are important to consider when you compare online probate services. They are:

  1. Know what probate services you are getting for what you are paying
  2. Evaluate the probate service’s experience and reputation
  3. Take time to learn about the probate process and what is required to complete your California probate

Know What Probate Services You Are Buying

Probate is a lengthy and complicated process and usually takes a minimum of 9 months. There are three different stages to the process:

Stage 1 – the Petition and Letters, appointment of personal representative

Stage 2 – Inventory, Appraisals, Notices, and Creditors Claims

Stage 3 – Distribution, Receipts, and Closing

To fully compare online probate services, you need to dig a big deeper and know what you are paying for. I am always surprised when I see companies that promote filing a probate petition for $500. First, the pricing is deceptive because customers are unaware that probate requires much more than preparing a “Probate Petition.” A review of these companies show they all simply provide an electronic way for customers to answer questions directly into court forms, often with no up-front costs until you pay their fee. Unfortunately, what you get is what you could do by going to the local court’s self-help center for free.

Completing a probate petition for approval by a judge requires substantially more than what these cheap services offer. But an appealing “low-fee” tactic does undoubtedly entice people to get started with their service. Unfortunately, it’s only later on when misguided customers learn the true scope of what is necessary and the extra fees that the company now requires to ultimately complete the 9-month probate process.

Probate is More than Filing a Probate Petition

Preparing and filing the probate petition is only one small aspect of completing a California probate. If paperwork is incomplete or prepared improperly (or doesn’t meet the court’s local rules and requirements) the court will continue the hearing. We often talk to potential customers who have faced multiple hearing continuances for one problem or another. This is the value of using an experienced and full-service probate company. A People’s Choice has an extremely high pre-approval rate for the probate petitions we file. In fact, judges often complement our clients on the exceptional comprehensive nature of the documents we have prepared on their behalf.

Secondly, when the court approves a probate petition and confirms the personal representative to act, that is only the start of the probate process. Once the court appoints the personal representative, the next 4 to 6 months cover a variety of other tasks to prepare the estate for distribution. In between the hearing on the Petition for Probate and the last hearing on the Petition for Distribution, there are many other steps and documents required to keep the probate case progressing on time.

So how do you get through this complicated probate process without an attorney? First, when you compare online probate services, make sure you check their reputation. You want to hire a document preparation company with a long-standing reputation for preparing probate paperwork. It seems to be a money-making opportunity these days, with companies cropping up right and left offering low-cost probate services. The question is, how long have they been providing these services? Are they new to the probate documentation field? What is their track record in successfully helping people complete probate?

Be aware, many of these probate services offering low-cost petition are attorneys trying to capture probate business with low-cost teaser ”Petitions.” Don’t get caught on the back-end of the probate process with their higher fees! A People’s Choice has been in business for over 40 years. Our track record speaks for itself, and court clerks and judges routinely refer people to our office “stuck in the process” for non-attorney probate help to complete their case.

Probate is More than Probate Documents

Secondly, when you compare online probate services, make sure you hire a service that offers more than document preparation. With the time deadlines and intricacies of the lengthy probate process, successful completion of probate requires more than completing paperwork!  Sometimes people contact us who managed to complete the Petition phase and now want help to close the probate.  More often than not, after looking at the court docket, their case is nowhere close or ready to close. In other words, it is quite common for people to miss the entire middle phase of the probate process without realizing it! Unfortunately, this causes delays to the probate process. Often these delays require extra paperwork to explain to the court why the case has not appropriately progressed.

A People’s Choice provides a comprehensive case management system to make sure that every step in the probate process is timely completed. Our goal is to make sure documents are prepared and filed at the proper time, and the case is closed as quickly as possible. Not only do we prepare the probate paperwork, but we also offer complimentary case management to make sure your probate case moves along without delays.

Probate Requires Timely Case Management

As mentioned above, the California probate process takes a minimum of 9 months. So what happens during those nine months? There are many moving parts and steps in the probate process. Unfortunately, the court expects you to know what needs to be done and when it needs to be done. That’s pretty scary. The court will typically set a deadline for when they expect the case to be ready for distribution. With this in mind, it is the responsibility of the Petitioner to make sure the case timely reaches that stage. So how do you get from Point A to Point Z if you don’t know the probate process and you are representing yourself? The answer is to make sure your probate service is there helping you get there.

A People’s Choice has helped thousands of self-represented individuals successfully complete their California probate. You don’t need to hire an expensive attorney to file probate. Customers can choose to hire us for one low, up-front fee for the entire standard probate process. On the other hand, customers can also choose to hire us per separate phase of the probate process. If you are on a quest to compare probate services, we urge you to call us today to learn more about how what makes our probate services unique. We offer a free introductory phone appointment and are available from 8 am to 8:30 pm 7 days a week. Contact us through our website or give us a call at 800-747-2780.

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