FAQ 2018-01-21T05:26:52+00:00

ANSWERS TO FREQUENTLY ASKED LEGAL QUESTIONS

Find quick answers to frequently asked legal questions about a variety of routine legal matters.

What is the first step to evict a tenant? 2018-06-17T17:49:38+00:00

Landlords are required to provide a tenants with formal legal notice to vacate premises before they can file an unlawful detainer action case. The tenant must receive written notice of the reason they are being evicted. The reason can be for non-payment of rent, noise, illegal activity or simply because the landlord want to terminate their month-to-month agreement. If the tenant has lived in the property for less than one year, the landlord must provide a tenant with a 30-day notice. If the tenant has resided in the rental for more than one year, the tenant must be provided with 60-days notice to vacate. The notice must be properly served on the tenant and the deadline to cure (or fix) the problem (if it can be fixed) must expire before an unlawful detainer complaint is filed. If the tenant resides in a county or city that has rent control, there may be other steps required.

How do I file an unlawful detainer complaint with the court? 2018-06-17T17:49:38+00:00

A California landlord can file an unlawful detainer complaint by completing and filing various required forms with the county Superior Court where the property is located. These forms include a Summons, Complaint, and Civil Case Cover sheet. The court keeps the original documents and will provide the landlord with a copy to serve on the tenant.  In order to make sure the service of the Summons and Complaint is properly completed. we always suggest that the service be completed by a registered process server.

How do I get an unlawful detainer trial date? 2018-06-17T17:49:38+00:00

If the tenant files an answer with the court, the landlord must then request the court schedule a trial. This is done by filing a Request/Counter Request to Set Case for Trial -Unlawful Detainer with the Superior Court Clerk. Once received, a trial is usually set within 21 days of the request.

What if the tenant does not respond to the eviction complaint? 2018-06-17T17:49:38+00:00

If the tenant does not file an Answer to the complaint or other type of written response with the court, the landlord can ask the court to enter a default judgment. When requesting a default judgment in an unlawful detainer/eviction case, the landlord must serve the tenant with a copy of the Request for Default. Once the court clerk grant’s the default, the landlord can then complete and file a Judgment for Unlawful Detainer and submit a Writ of Execution so that they can get legal possession of the property.

What do I do after a Writ of Execution has been issued by the court? 2018-06-17T17:49:38+00:00

The Writ of Execution gives the landlord the right to retake possession of the property. Once the court has issued a Writ of Take, this document should be taken to the local Sheriff’s office. The Sheriff will need to serve the Writ on the tenant and provide the tenant with notice to move out within 5 days.  The Sheriff will give the landlord an exact date and time that the tenant will be required to leave the property.

Can a lock-out by a tenant be delayed? 2018-06-17T17:49:38+00:00

A tenant can delay a scheduled lock-out by requesting the court to temporarily delay the process. This is called a “stay of execution” and is often used by clever tenants to further delay the process. The tenant must file the stay as soon as they receive the Sheriff’s notice giving the 5 days to leave the property. If the judge grants the stay, the eviction will be delayed. During this time, the tenant will have to continue to pay rent if the tenant remains having control over the property during the period of the stay.

How can I collect a money judgment after evicting a tenant? 2018-06-17T17:49:09+00:00

You will need to first identify what assets a tenant may have in order to try and collect a money judgment. If you know where the tenant works, you can garnish the tenant’s wages from their employer. If you know where the tenant has a bank account, you may also be able to obtain a bank levy. All of these actions have an additional costs associated with them. It is important to decide whether or not you will be successful in these collection attempts so that you are not spending good money after bad.

Why choose A People’s Choice for your document needs? 2018-06-17T17:51:08+00:00

A People’s Choice has been in the legal document preparation business for over 35 years. Unlike many other companies who hide in internet obscurity, we provide our toll-free and local telephone numbers as well as our address on our website. We are not attorneys, and we do not provide legal advice; however, we do provide exceptionally high quality legal document preparation services unsurpassed by any other company on the internet, and we take pride in our long-term reputation.

How do you start the probate process? 2018-06-17T17:50:37+00:00

You start the probate proceeding by filing a petition and supplemental preliminary documentation required, with the clerk of the Superior Court in the county where the decedent resided at the time of his death, no matter where he died or left property. The person requesting to be appointed the estate representative files the probate petition. That person is called the petitioner.

What is an uncontested divorce? 2018-06-17T17:49:09+00:00

An uncontested divorce is when both parties agree to the settlement terms of the divorce. This means that the parties agree on the division of assets, debts, child custody and visitation, child support, retirement benefits, and alimony. An uncontested divorce means there no issues in disagreement between the parties that require the court to resolve.

What is the difference between a Grant Deed and a Deed of Trust? 2018-06-17T17:49:38+00:00

A Grant Deed transfers title ownership of real property from the current owner to the new owner. A deed can also relinquish a co-owner’s interest in real property to another existing co-owner. When a person or entity purchases real property, a Grant Deed is recorded showing them as the new owner of the property.

On the other hand, a Deed of Trust reflects loans against real property. In this regard, rather than addressing “title” to the property, a Deed of Trust addresses lien hold interests in real property.  A Deed of Trust is recorded to secure repayment of a debt between a bank lien holder (lender) and the actual titleholder/owner of the property. The recorded deed of trust has priority over other recorded deeds of trust on the same property based on when they were recorded. For example, a deed of trust recorded January 1, 2017 would have priority over a later deed of trust recorded March 3, 2017.  When a bank loans money to a buyer money to buy a home, the homeowner signs a deed of trust. This Deed of Trust is then recorded on the property to memorialize the loan and secure the loan.

Is A People’s Choice Registered and Bonded? 2018-06-17T17:51:08+00:00

Many online services have failed to comply with state law requiring registration and bonding which is required by California law to offer legal document assistant services in California. These companies are not legally recognized services under California state law, and as a consumer, you are offered no protection when things go wrong! A People’s Choice is registered and bonded. As required by California law, this information is disclosed on our site. A People’s Choice is also a member of CALDA (the California Association of Legal Document Assistants); Sandy McCarthy, founder of A People’s Choice, proudly served as President of CALDA from 2004-2005. CALDA is the ONLY association in California that demands high standards of excellence from its Registered Legal Document Assistant members. A People’s Choice is also a member of the Tri-County Better Business Bureau and has been granted its prestigious A+ rating.

How big does an estate have to be to require probate? 2018-06-17T17:50:07+00:00

Estates that have a gross value of over $150,000 of personal property (assets consisting of cash, stocks, and tangible personal items) normally require probate. Any estate that includes real property worth more than $50,000 requires probate, however there are small estate proceedings that can be used to settle estates having real property valued under $150,000. These alternative proceedings can be completed much quicker and are less expensive than the full probate process. Keep in mind that these values are gross estate values and do not take into account any debts that are owed on the property.

What are the benefits of an uncontested divorce? 2018-06-17T17:49:08+00:00

There are many benefits of an uncontested divorce. If a divorce is uncontested, this means that the parties are not spending thousands of dollars in court and attorney fees fighting over issues. When a divorce is uncontested, both parties remain in control of the divorce process. This means that both parties get to decide between themselves how their marital property will be divided, what the best parenting plan for their children are, what custody and visitation schedule works best, and how marital debts will be settled. Uncontested divorces help couples reduce and/or completely eliminate the hurt and anger often associated with the divorce process.

What is a Beneficiary in Real Property Transactions? 2018-06-17T17:49:38+00:00

In real property transactions, a beneficiary typically refers to the lender or bank who is named in a Deed of Trust. Every Deed of Trust will identify a named beneficiary who typically receives the deed of trust in exchange for their loaning money to a homeowner. In real estate transactions, the beneficiary list on a deed of trust is usually a bank; however an individual person can also be listed as a beneficiary. The deed of trust identifies the basic terms of the loan, such as the amount borrowed from the beneficiary/lender.

Why should I hire A People’s Choice when I can go to the Court Self-Help Service? 2018-06-17T17:50:38+00:00

If you have ever taken a trip to the local court’s self-help service, you might be able to answer this question yourself. Most courts in California are understaffed and short-handed. This results in long lines at the self-help centers, requiring consumers seeking help to arrive early and wait hours before the doors open if they want to get in and be helped. By using the services of A People’s Choice you will never have to wait in line and in many situations, will not have to take time off work to deal with your legal document preparation needs. A People’s Choice offers early evening appointments and even provides many services that can be easily completed through our online system or over the telephone.

The philosophy of the court’s self-help service is a “one box fits all” solution. This usually creates confusion for people, particularly in divorce proceedings. There are a multitude of ways to complete a divorce, and some paths or options are substantially easier than others. Typically in a divorce situation, the self-help center provides consumers packets of family law forms that may or may not be needed in their particular case. The consumer is then required to sort through them and try to figure out which forms they need in their particular situation. A People’s Choice is familiar with what it takes to get your case through the court process in the fastest time and with the least amount of difficulty. We have had over 35 years to streamline our processes to make it easy and hassle-free for our customers.

The Court self-help service does NOT prepare paperwork. They offer limited direction regarding document preparation, and you must prepare the documents yourself.  When you use the services of A People’s Choice, your documents will be fully prepared and completed, ready for your signature. As a courtesy, in most situations, we will even file your documents with the court.

Are there alternatives to filing probate? 2018-06-17T17:50:07+00:00

In California, there are several alternatives to the full, formal probate. Some of these are:

  • If the total gross value of a deceased person’s personal property does not exceed $150,000, a non-court affidavit procedure may be used on behalf of the beneficiaries to avoid a “full” probate.
  • If the gross value of a decedent’s real property does not exceed $50,000, a simplified court affidavit procedure can be used on behalf of the beneficiaries to avoid “full” probate.
  • If the surviving spouse or registered domestic partner is heir to all or part of the decedent’s estate, they may file a special spousal property petition to avoid formal probate. This method is faster and less expensive than formal probate.
How long does it take to settle an uncontested divorce? 2018-06-17T17:49:08+00:00

Most uncontested divorces can be resolved within 2 to 7 months. California family law requires a six-month period from the time the respondent is served with the court summons and divorce papers to allow a divorce to be finalized. This means a judgment for divorce can be entered six months from the day the respondent is properly served. In most of our cases, however, the parties have reach an agreement within as very short period of time after filing. As a result, many of our divorce cases are completed with the entry of a Final Judgment in 2-3 months. After the Judgment has been entered by the court, the six month “waiting period” simply continues to run. Once the time has expired, the parties are free to remarry. The date the parties are legally considered “single” is clearly stated on the Notice of Entry of Judgment.

How do I know I’m getting the best price? 2018-06-17T17:50:38+00:00

The goal of A People’s Choice is to keep our fees low, without sacrificing service. We will match any other price found on the Internet as long as the services described are exactly the same as what we offer. A People’s Choice does not just prepare legal documents. We provide “complete” services including client interview, preparation of the necessary legal documents, case monitoring and being available to answer procedural questions during your proceeding. As a courtesy, we can help with the processing and/or filing of your documents with the court or other proper entity. Court proceedings are not uniform in every county. Templates or standardized court forms are insufficient in 99% of situations – a fact that many on-line services fail to mention. Don’t take our word for it. Verify exactly what services you will be getting before you contract with any on-line services so that you won’t be unpleasantly surprised later down the road. We have many satisfied online customers. Please read our positive reviews on Superpages.com!

We understand that you will give thoughtful consideration when selecting a company to help you with your document preparation. By choosing A People’s Choice, we are confident that you won’t be disappointed! Feel free to call us on our toll-free number at 800-747-2780 if you have any further questions or would just like to chat to learn more about our services and our company.

What are the steps for an uncontested divorce? 2018-06-17T17:49:39+00:00

In order for our office to provide the lowest cost of services to our clients, we have made every effort to streamline the legal process into several easy, defined steps to help you complete your  proceedings in the most efficient way. Here is what you should expect when using A People’s Choice for your divorce, legal separation or annulment.

Online Interview Process: Once you have retained our office (signed required contract and processed your payment for our fees) we will need to gather statistical facts about your case. To do this in the most time and cost efficient way we have created an online interactive interview process which captures all the information we will need to prepare your paperwork. The link to the interview will be emailed to you. The online interview normally takes between 10-25 minutes depending on the complexity of your particular case.

Petitioner’s Dissolution Documents: Our office prepares all the standard documents required to be filed with the court in your proceeding. To streamline the signing of the standard documentation, our office prepares most on the front end. Once you have completed the interview process, our office will send you (the Petitioner) all the documents you will need to sign to start your divorce case. In addition, we will include some other documents that we will need later down the road. You will see that some documents will be dated and others will not. We will send you a detailed email with the documents with instructions on what you need to do next.

Filing of your Case: Once you have signed your documents and returned the originals to us with the court filing fee check, we will then send them to the court for processing. The time it takes for the court will vary based on your choice on how you wish us to process your paperwork. We will send you the filing options when we send you your divorce paperwork to sign. Some options are faster than others, some are cheaper than others, so please review the filing options and decide what best fits your needs and budget.

Petitioner and Respondent Packages: Once you reach step this step, you will have an active divorce case. Upon receiving your filed paperwork from the court which will give you  CASE NUMBER, we will generate two separate packages for you with detailed instructions on the next steps to proceed. We typically send these package by email in pdf format. You will need to print them off on your end. In these packets, you will find your FILED Petition which will need to be given to the Respondent.

Marital Settlement Agreement: If you paid for our office to prepare a Marital Settlement agreement, you will find a draft copy of your marital settlement agreement in your package attached to Step 3. This document addresses all the issues required by the court. Our office includes one FREE revision of the Marital Settlement Agreement. Supplemental revisions after the first revision will incur added charges.

Return of Signed Documents: Once you and your spouse have completed all aspects of the steps included in each of your packages, you can now return all the signed documents to our office. Once this has been done, we will be able to send your final judgment to the court for filing. We cannot send the Final Judgment documents to the court for processing until at least 31 days after the date your spouse has been served or signed the voluntary acknowledgment.

Submission of Final Judgment: At the proper time, if you have provided everything requested, we will send the Final Judgment to the court for processing. The amount of time the court takes to process the Final Judgment varies but on average it is about 3-8 weeks. Once the Judgment has been signed, your case is considered concluded. Our office will give you a copy of your filed judgment if the court returns it to our office. Sometimes depending on the county in which you filed, the court will mail the judgment directly to you. In divorce proceedings, pay particular attention to the Date of Termination of Marriage as often our cases are concluded BEFORE THAT DATE HAS PASSED. Once that date passes, you are considered single and free to remarry. You will NOT get any more paperwork from the court.

How long does it take to get a divorce in California? 2018-06-17T17:50:38+00:00

How long does it take to get a divorce in California? Well, there are two separate dates to keep in mind – 1) when the case has been completed and a Judgment entered, and 2)  when a divorce is terminated.

Divorce – The clock starts ticking as soon as the other party is served with the Petition. From this date, the earliest termination date that can be entered (when the parties are considered single) is 6 months plus 1 day from the date of service. For example, if a Petition for dissolution was filed January 1st, but not served on the other party until March 1st, the earliest termination date of the parties marriage would be September 2nd.  It is important to understand that the termination date of the marriage is different than the date the Judgment is entered. Keep in mind, however, that the court proceedings can be completed long before this termination date. In most of our cases, when the parties agree and timely complete their steps in the process, the court proceedings can be concluded and a Judgment entered within 2-3 months. In our earlier example, a final Judgment could be submitted on April 2nd and entered by the court shortly afterwards. As you can see, a Final Judgment can be entered by the court months before the real “marriage termination” date. The parties would not be able to remarry until after the termination date noted on the Notice of Entry of Judgment.

On the other hand, if the parties do not agree, the other side files a Response and the matter proceeds to trial, this will substantially delay the process. Often the setting of a trial may not take place for a year or two after the Petition is filed.

Legal Separation – There is no termination date in a legal separation. The time-line process is exactly the same as a divorce, except for the termination date. Once a Judgment of Legal Separation is entered, the case is completed.

Annulment – An annulment always requires a court hearing. A hearing can be requested 30 days after the date of service. At the hearing, a Judgment can be entered if the annulment is approved and the case is completed at that time. There is no future “termination date”  and parties would be able to remarry immediately.

How long does California probate take? 2018-06-17T17:50:08+00:00

If there are no unusual problems, a typical California probate proceeding can be concluded in approximately seven to twelve months. Due to crowded court calendars, hearings are often held six to ten weeks after the initial probate petition is filed. After Letters of Administration are issued, there is a mandatory four-month creditor claim period. There may be other delays in getting a probate referee assigned, completing the inventory and appraisal, dealing with creditors, resolving tax issues, or will contests that could delay the probate for even longer periods.

What is included in A People’s Choice’s Flat Fees? 2018-06-17T17:50:38+00:00

Our flat fees cover all document preparation as specifically outlined in our Contract For Services. Our flat fees always include unlimited communication via email and customers can typically expect a very quick response, even after hours and on the weekends, although we do not “guarantee” a specific after-hour email response time. Customers that choose to communicate with our office by phone will be charged an extra fee for all incoming calls, allowing the customer complete control over their overall legal fees. This system has allowed us to keep our fees at “rock bottom” prices for those extremely price conscious consumers; while maintaining flexibility and convenience for those customers who want to pay for that extra service.

Who can represent the estate in a probate proceeding? 2018-06-17T17:50:37+00:00

The estate representative (executor or administrator) represents the estate in a court proceeding.  If there is a will which names an executor, that person is the estate representative. If there is no will (the decedent died intestate), the court will choose the estate representative who is called an “administrator.” If there is a will but no executor has been named or the person named is unable to serve, the court will choose the estate representative who is called an “administrator with will annexed.”

What is the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)? 2018-06-17T17:49:38+00:00

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) was created to help prevent one parent from going to a different state with the couple’s children and then filing a custody action. Under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act, the court will look to see which state the child resided in and was the child’s home state during the previous six months to determine whether the court in a particular state has authority and jurisdiction to make court orders over the parties and their children.

The courts also look at 1) whether another state could also have jurisdiction over the child under the act, 2) whether the parent and the child have a significant connection to the state, and 3) whether the majority of witnesses and the evidence are in the state.

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act governs the ability of state courts to have jurisdiction and make and modify/change child custody and visitation orders. It also gives State courts the ability to enforce valid child custody and visitation orders made by made by sister State courts. It is important to note, however, that the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act does not apply to child support cases.
Why does A People’s Choice charge for phone calls? 2018-06-17T17:50:38+00:00

Over our 35 years of being in business, our number one goal has been to provide a high-quality professional service at the very lowest cost possible. Time is money and we found that some clients were abusing our old “flat fee” policy which allowed clients unlimited calls to our office during their case. At one point, our office staff was so inundated with certain clients calling over and over, (sometimes 5-10 times a day) making it difficult to get work done during the day which resulted in a backlog in our work flow.

After considering all options, it came down to two:

1) we could raise everyone’s fees and hire extra staff just to cover the phone demand or
2) keep the fees the same, allow unlimited communication by email, and for those clients who did need to call in, they would pay for this extra service on an “as needed” basis.

In the end, we felt having people pay for the added convenience of calling was the best resolution so that everyone was not penalized for the actions of a few. Communicating by email also allows us to keep a record of what was said which is very important when dealing with legal issues.

When is payment for document preparation services required? 2018-06-17T17:49:07+00:00

As required under California law, all clients must sign a mandatory Contract for Service at the time we are hired. Payment in full for our document preparation services is required at that time. Third-party costs such as court filing fees, etc. are not included in our service fees and are paid as they are incurred.

How can someone find out if they are named in a will? 2018-06-17T17:50:08+00:00

California Probate Code Section 8200(a)  requires that the original will be filed with the court in the county where the person who dies resided within 30 days after the person’s death. Unfortunately, this statutory requirement is rarely complied with. In fact, in most cases, the original will is only lodged with the court if the estate requires to be probated.

If you know that there is a will and it is not filed with the court, then you should contact an attorney to determine what your options are.

Does it matter who files for divorce first in California? 2018-06-17T17:49:08+00:00

In California, it does not matter who files divorce first; meaning, if your spouse filed for divorce first, it does not impact the case. Unlike other states, it does not matter if a spouse was involved in adultery or why a party wants a divorce. The majority of divorce are filed simply due to the parties having “irreconcilable differences”, meaning California is a no-fault state.

Who can I contact at A People’s Choice for answers and assistance? 2018-06-17T17:50:39+00:00

When you choose A People’s Choice, you can be assured your case will be assigned to a real person, with whom you can communicate during the entire period of your case. Most of our fees are flat fees which allows customers to communicate with us by email as often as necessary at no extra charge. We pride ourselves in making a personal relationship with every client a top priority! As a legal document assistant, our services are not limited to merely preparing your paperwork. We want to make sure that you are able to navigate through the legal system as painlessly as possible, and we are there to help you along the way.

A People’s Choice is NOT an attorney’s office. We cannot give you legal advice and some questions we may not be able to answer. We strictly adhere to the laws governing our profession, so please keep that in mind when you ask us questions that we cannot provide answers to. We offer customers many options to get answers to legal questions including our extensive self-help law library in our corporate office as well as information offered through our online library. We can also refer you to an attorney in your area who may be able to help get answers to your questions.

How much does probate cost? 2018-06-17T17:50:08+00:00

Probate is not an inexpensive process in California. There are several small estate probate proceedings that are reasonably inexpensive to undertake. A full probate, can run several thousand dollars in fees and costs, even when you do it yourself.

Filing a probate with the help of an experienced probate legal document assistant is the cheapest way to navigate the California probate process. Attorneys are able to charge statutory attorney fees based on the value of the estate.  These statutory fees are based on the gross value of the estate, not the net value. Use our probate calculator to determine what the statutory attorney fees would be for an estate. This calculator will also show the savings when you use A People’s Choice to help you with the probate proceedings.

I am not a California resident. Can I file for divorce in California? 2018-06-17T17:49:08+00:00

California law requires a person to live within the state for at least six months prior to filing for divorce. If you do not meet this criteria, you may be able to for legal separation. Afterwards, once you have lived in the state for six months, you can amend your legal separation documents and file for divorce.

As a client, what am I responsible for in my case? 2018-06-17T17:50:38+00:00

Clients that use our services are ultimately responsible for their own case. Our office is not an attorney’s office and we do not handle cases in the same way as an attorney would.  If you need excessive hand-holding in your legal matter or are expecting “attorney like service” at non-attorney prices, you should probably hire an attorney to help you. If you simply need professional legal document help and are willing to take personal responsibility for your case with a little professional help and direction, then using our services is an excellent choice and will save you a substantial amount of money.

Your responsibility as our client is to respond to any communications from us in a timely manner and to cooperate with us as necessary until your file is closed. If we email you and we do not hear from you, your file may be put “on hold” until you respond. For this reason, it is critical that you regularly check your email and/or voice messages while we are handling your document preparation.

Our contractual obligation as a Registered Legal Document Assistant is officially limited to preparation of your legal documents. As a self-represented person, all communication, if any, from the court will be directed to you, not to our office. If you receive communication from the court, you should send a copy to us if you have questions about it.

Our long-standing policy has been to help with the processing and/or filing of any legal paperwork we have prepared with the appropriate entity when it is conducive to do so. We offer several levels of processing service. We may defer the court filing of prepared documents back to the client when there is an upcoming filing deadline or other unique situation.

What costs are involved in probate? 2018-06-17T17:50:08+00:00

There are many third-party costs associated with filing a California probate proceeding. These costs are in addition to professional document preparation services or attorney fees should you hire a professional to help you.

A typical estate may incur $1,000 to $2,000 in court costs and other mandated fees. A list of common third-party costs in a typical full California probate are as follows:

  1. Court filing fee for initial Petition: The current court filing fee for a Petition for probate is $435.00 for most courts. Many courts also charge an additional court reporter fee of $30.00. The counties of Riverside, San Bernardino and San Francisco charge slightly higher fees.
  2. Lodging Will – Most courts charge a fee of $50 to lodge the original will.
  3. Newspaper publication – The fee charged by each newspaper varies. Sometimes there are several choices of newspapers that are proper for publication, allowing a person to shop around for the cheapest one. Other times, there may be only one choice. The average fee for publication is $250, however with smaller newspapers, the fee can run as high as $600-$700.
  4. Certified copy of Letters – approximately $25 per certified copy. A representative should get 2-3 certified copies of the issued Letters.
  5. Probate Referee – The probate referee is the person who appraises the assets of the estate. They are allowed to charge statutory fees of .01% of the gross value of all assets they appraise. In addition, they can charge nominal fees for mileage and copies.
  6. Court filing fee for Petition for Final Distribution – This fee is the same as for the initial Probate Petition, currently $435.00 for most courts. Many courts also charge an additional court reporter fee of $30.00. The counties of Riverside, San Bernardino and San Francisco charge slightly higher fees.
  7. Certified copy of Order – Approximately $25
  8. Recording Fee – Approximately $30-$50.

 

How can I settle my divorce without going to court? 2018-06-17T17:49:08+00:00

If you and your spouse cannot agree, you may be able to use mediation to resolve your divorce disputes. Mediation allows each party to discuss concerns and specific issues that need to be resolved. If divorce issues can be settled through mediation, then the divorce case can proceed as an uncontested matter and most likely neither party will need to appear in court. Sometimes, if there has been a substantial delay since the case was filed, you may have to attend a status hearing to provide a judge with an update what is going on in the case. Contact us if you have questions about how to settle your case without going to court.

What are the duties of an Executor or Personal Representative? 2018-06-17T17:50:08+00:00

The executor or estate’s personal representative has a duty to administer the decedent’s estate. Administration of the estate includes locating the decedent’s assets, managing the assets to prevent losses, paying bills for the estate, filing necessary tax returns, preparing an inventory of the assets, locating heirs and beneficiaries, and other duties. The role of the executor or personal representative is to tie up all the loose ends of the decedent’s financial affairs and to distribute the estate to the beneficiaries.

A quick reference list of the duties of the executor or personal representative include:

  1. Take possession of all estate’s property insofar as practicable. Joint tenancy property, life insurance proceeds, and retirement plan benefits (unless payable to the estate) are not included in the property under the jurisdiction of the probate court;
  2. Collect all dividends, interest and other income, and deposit all such items in an interest-earning estate bank account (or accounts) until the estate is closed;
  3. Keep a detailed statement of all your receipts and disbursements for the estate; List the date, source, and amount of each receipt and the date, nature of payment, and amount of each disbursement;
  4. File all tax returns and pay all taxes. You may want to consult with a tax specialist in this regard; and
  5. Keep estate property adequately insured. You should consult with an insurance specialist in this regard.

 

 

Do I need to hire an attorney to file for a divorce? 2018-06-17T17:49:07+00:00

If you and your spouse agree to all the issues, you do not need to hire an attorney to file an uncontested divorce. Most people can navigate through the family law system on their own accord with the help of A People’s Choice for the paperwork. On the other hand, if the matter becomes contested, you may want to give thoughtful consideration to determining your exact needs before rushing out and hiring a lawyer.  For example, some contested matters such as custody and visitation, can be easily handled without the need of an attorney. Often these matters proceed through mediation from which process the attorneys are excluded. In the end, the mediator offers their recommendation. In most cases, the Judge hearing the matter simply places his/her stamp of approval on the mediator’s recommendation.

Nowadays, people can hire an attorney under a limited scope of representation agreement. This means that you get more bang for your dollar by being able to use a non-attorney such as A People’s Choice for necessary document preparation and an attorney for any complex court hearings. Contact our office to discuss your needs. We can explain how other clients have handled similar situations using our services so you can make the best choice for yourself.

Does my spouse have to file a Response? 2018-06-17T17:50:07+00:00

If you and your spouse agree on all the issues, there is really no reason they would have to file a formal Response to the Petition. The reason people file a Response is to protect their interests in the process and let the court know there is a dispute about marital issues. When a Response is filed, the party will need to pay a court filing fee (currently $435). If the parties know they will be signing a Marital Settlement Agreement or if there are no issues that need to be addressed (short-term marriage with no assets or debts to be divided and no children), then there is simply no reason for a Respondent to file a formal Response with the court.  However, if there is any question about the parties reaching an agreement, then a Respondent may want to file a Response to protect their interests so that a default cannot be taken against them.

How Does A People’s Choice file/process my paperwork? 2018-06-17T17:49:39+00:00

Our Court Filing Authorization  is a form we send clients so they can choose the level of filing service they wish our office to use when filing forms with the court or other agency. There are several different levels of filing service:

Court filings by mail.  Our office will mail your documents to the court or other agency for processing. Keep in mind that filing documents by regular first-class mail is unpredictable and may cause delay in the timely filing of my paperwork. The fees for postage will be added to your account.

Court filings by Filing Service.  A People’s Choice contracts with a state-wide filing service with a daily pick-up at our corporate office. All documents submitted to the court by our filing service will be done in person at the court clerk counter. Documents will be submitted by courier at the court clerk counter under “standard processing” which means the documents will typically be filed within 1-4 court days. There is an extra fee for this level of service which varies based on where the papers are being filed/processed but is estimated between $40-$55 for each batch of documents filed in the case at one time. Rush filing (same day processing) is available at an extra fee. A People’s Choice cannot give you a definitive fee for the added “rush service” but it typically adds $50-$75 to the standard cost.

Court filings by EFiling (if available). Efiling is NOT available in all circumstances. If efiling is not available, A People’s Choice will use the in-person filing service. Documents will be uploaded via an e-filing service for fast processing. There is an e-filing fee charged by the service provider for this service (based on number of pages) plus a staff processing fee of $35.00 to scan and prepare the documents for e-filing. E-Filings are typically processed same or next day by the court. Although a rare occurrence, any Efiling service that requires more than 15 minutes of staff time to compile/scan unusually large documents will be assessed an additional surcharge based on amount of time expended at the rate of $80/hr. (no charge for the first 15 min.).

Client will file their own documents:  Our clients always have the option to file their documents themselves. A People’s Choice will copy and prepare the package to present to the court. The client will incur postage costs for this process to send the “ready to file” packages. It is then the client’s responsibility to deal with the court clerk directly about the processing of their paperwork.

What are the grounds for California divorce? 2018-06-17T17:50:38+00:00

California was the first state to adopt the “no-fault divorce” concept. This means that the grounds for California divorce  are simply “irreconcilable differences.” In effect, this simply means that a married person who wants to end the marriage can do so, even if the other spouse wants to stay together. In the past, most states only granted divorces on fault grounds, but today all states have adopted a form of no fault divorce. In a no fault divorce,  neither party is held responsible for the failure of the marriage. This means that the grounds for California divorce are not based on adultery, cruelty, abandonment, mental illness, or criminal conviction, and such allegations will not prove or impose any extra advantage in the outcome of the divorce proceedings to the aggrieved spouse.

How are the decedent’s debts handled in probate? 2018-06-17T17:50:08+00:00

Anyone who winds up a deceased person’s affairs must see that all legitimate debts are paid. Claims are received two ways – formally and informally.

At the formal level, the Notice of Petition to Administer Estate published in the newspaper gives legal notice to all creditors to file their claims within four months after issuance of the letters. In some circumstances, however, a creditor may file a claim after the four-month period has expired. Claims must be filed with the court and served on the personal representative, or the claims will be invalid.  In addition, written notice must be given within four months after letters are issued to all known or reasonably ascertainable creditors and you must continue to give notice as you become aware of new creditors.

Informal claims are made when bills come to the decedent’s last address. Probate Code §10552 allows you to pay the debts at your discretion without court approval or without requiring a formal claim if you have independent administration authority. In addition, when there has been a written demand for payment, Probate Code §9154 allows you to pay debts incurred by the decedent before death within 30 days after the claim period ends without requiring a formal claim, unless for some reason you dispute the amount or legitimacy of the debt.

How do I know what is happening in my case? 2018-06-17T17:49:39+00:00

A People’s Choice makes every effort to keep our clients informed about what our office is doing. What does this mean?

  1. We try to email clients an acknowledgment when our office receives communication by mail.
  2. We notify clients by email when our office has taken action on your file. For example, when we send documents to the court for filing, we will send you an email indicating so.

What this does NOT mean:

A People’s Choice does not assume responsibility for client inaction. A People’s Choice uses email to communicate with all of our clients. This means it is the client’s responsibility to regularly check their email for communications from our office. A People’s Choice maintains detailed notes on every client’s matter. This enables all staff to efficiently work on every case.

Our procedures include identifying all actions and communications in the client file. When we contact a client for information or with a question, it is the client’s responsibility to promptly respond to our communication.  If we fail to receive a reply, the matter will simply be placed “on hold”.  Receiving the client’s response triggers our office proceeding to the next step. Therefore, if we do not receive a response, the file will stay in “pending” mode.  A People’s Choice does not “calendar” a follow-up to see if a client has responded to a request for information. If a client has not heard from our office and is concerned they may have missed or overlooked a communication from us, you should email us requesting a status of your case.

Is the estate representative entitled to compensation? 2018-06-17T17:50:09+00:00

As an estate representative, you are entitled to compensation for services, referred to as “commissions” which are paid out of the estate assets. You may request or waive the commissions in the Petition for Final Distribution. The amount of commission is based on the gross value of the probate estate as follows:

4% of the first$100,000
3% of the next$100,000
2% of the next$800,000
1% of the next$9,000,000
½% of the next$15,000,000
“reasonable amount” for everything above$25,000,000

If you are the sole beneficiary, it is probably unimportant whether you claim the commissions or not since you will receive all of the estate anyway. However, if there are several beneficiaries and you have done all the work, you may want to discuss whether you will claim or waive the commissions with the other beneficiaries. If commissions are paid to you, they are treated as taxable income and you must report them on your personal income tax return.

Do I have to pay my spouse’s health insurance after filing divorce? 2018-06-17T17:49:08+00:00

If you were providing health insurance for your spouse before you filed for divorce, the answer is “Yes”. In California, any existing health insurance policies must be maintained until a divorce is finalized. When a divorce is filed, a Summons is issued by the Court which specifically states, in part:

“Starting immediately, you and your spouse or domestic partner are restrained from: cashing, borrowing against, canceling, transferring, disposing of, or changing the beneficiaries of any insurance or other coverage, including life, health, automobile, and disability, held for the benefit of the parties and their minor children.”

A party in the middle of divorce may face serious penalties if they remove their spouse from an existing plan. If there is a cost to maintaining the plan, you could consider filing a motion with the court to address that issue until the divorce is finalized.

Where do I mail documents and correspondence to? 2018-06-17T17:49:39+00:00

All documents and other correspondence should be mailed to our corporate office in Ventura. The address is:

A People’s Choice Inc.
5755 Valentine Rd. #303
Ventura, CA 93003

It is not recommended to send communications that require a signature as that could delay in the package being delivered if someone is not available to sign for receipt.

What is a probate asset? 2018-06-17T17:50:08+00:00

Assets that are solely in the name of the decedent are generally probate assets. Assets that can transferred through pay-on-death provisions are not considered probate assets. For example, if an asset is owned in joint tenancy (but not if it is owned in tenancy in common) or there is a named beneficiary designated to receive the asset after death of the owner, these assets are not part of the probate state. When pay-on-death designations have been made, the asset avoids probate. All other assets are part of the estate and must be probated in California if the total value exceeds $150,000.  If there is a surviving spouse, however, a formal probate can usually be avoided with a spousal property petition.

How to Write an “Open Check” 2018-06-17T17:49:38+00:00

Sometimes our office may ask that you write an “open check” payable to the court or other agency to whom you are paying a filing fee. The reason we ask for an “open check” is that we are not sure of the exact amount the court will want to process your paperwork. In lieu of wasting time having it rejected for the check being a wrong amount, we ask the client to write an “open check” leaving the amount of the check unspecified up to a specific amount.

How to write an Open Check: Since the cost of processing certain legal documents varies depending on number of pages, etc. we ask clients to issue an “open check” to the appropriate agency.

  1. Fill in the Pay to the Order to the court or agency that will be processing the paperwork.
  2. DO NOT fill in the amount on the check.
  3. DO NOT write out the amount on the check.
  4. ABOVE your signature and BELOW the line where you write out the amount put the words “not to exceed $(amount specified by our office)”.
  5. When we send the documents for processing, the agency will then issue the check for the correct amount.
  6. After your documents have been processed, our office will give you a receipt from the court or agency which will show the amount your check was processed for.
How will my marital assets and debts be divided? 2018-06-17T17:49:08+00:00

Although California community property laws require courts to divide marital assets between both spouses 50/50, the parties can mutually  agree to any other division they feel is fair and equitable. If the parties do not agree, then most likely the court will divide all community assets and debts down the middle between both parties. This includes bank accounts, retirement accounts, real estate, household goods and furniture and vehicles.

How is an estate distributed when there is no will? 2018-06-17T17:50:08+00:00

If a person dies without a will or trust, their estate will be distributed according to California intestate succession laws. Generally speaking, intestate succession laws in California state that a person’s estate will be distributed in the following order:
1. Spouse
2. Children
3. Parents (if you have no children)
4. Siblings (if you have no children or parents)

Additional information regarding intestate succession can be found here.

What happens if my spouse refuses to complete the Disclosures? 2018-06-17T17:50:07+00:00

First, keep in mind that the mandatory Preliminary Disclosures (Step 2 in our process) are only required to be exchanged by both parties if they are signing a Marital Settlement Agreement or the matter goes to a full trial. If the other spouse does not file a formal Response to the Petition AND a Marital Settlement Agreement is not being signed, the case can go ahead without the non-filing spouse completing this step. On the other hand, the Petitioner always must complete the preliminary disclosures. The final disclosures can be mutually waived by both parties if they are signing a Marital Settlement Agreement. The final disclosures can also be waived by the Petitioner if the matter is proceeding by default without a Marital Settlement agreement.

What should you bring to your probate hearing? 2018-06-17T17:49:07+00:00

This is a question that clients regularly ask just before their scheduled hearing. In probate cases, there is typically a court order that is issued by the court based on the outcome of the hearing. In this regard, if the Order can be lodged with the court before the hearing, we will do so. Unfortunately, not all courts allow documents to be lodged pre-hearing. Therefore, we recommend that clients print and take a copy of the proposed Order and have it available to submit to the court. In addition, since courts may not necessary process the order “on the spot” it is helpful to have a self-addressed, stamped envelope available as well for the court to use to send the filed order back to you.

If you are filling a full probate case and this is your first hearing in the matter, the court will issue “Letters.” Keep in mind Letters are ONLY issued in full probate cases, not small estate matters or spousal proceedings. As with the Order, you will want to have a copy of the original, signed Letters and self-addressed envelope to submit the court for processing if the Letters have not been pre-lodged with the court.

It is always important to keep A People’s Choice informed as to any filed paperwork you may receive from the court. Therefore, upon receiving issued “Letters” or a filed “Order,” you should forward a copy to our office by email.

In most instances, a certified copy of the Court Order will be required. Therefore, if the court does process the Order at the hearing, you should go to the Court Clerk’s Office and get a certified copy of the Order as well as a certified copy of the Letters (in full probate cases.)

What are Letters in probate? 2018-06-17T17:50:09+00:00

Letters can be more easily understood as being the estate representative’s “proof of authority” as the estate representative in a probate proceeding. Letters Testamentary are issued to the estate representative when the decedent had a will. Letters of Administration are issued when the decedent did not have a will. Letters are issued by the Court clerk and are sort of like the representative’s “Driver’s License” in a probate proceeding. Letters can be presented to banks and other entities that demand court proof that the person has been granted court authority to act on behalf of the decedent and their estate.

Letters are issued to the estate representative after the first hearing. It is the responsibility of the estate representative to go to the Court Clerk’s office after the Order for Probate has been signed by the Judge and filed to get several certified copies of the Letters. The representative will be required to provide a certified copy of the Letters to banks and other entities to substantiate their authority as estate representative and administrator.

How long does a legal separation take? 2018-06-17T17:50:07+00:00

Since there is no termination date in a legal separation, a Judgment of Legal Separation can be submitted for processing 31 days after the date of service. This is based on the parties signing a Marital Settlement Agreement or the matter proceeding by way of default. The amount of time it takes the court to process the Judgment will vary but can be as quick as 2 weeks or as long as several months. Once a Judgment of Legal Separation is entered, the case is completed.

Keep in mind that the parties remain legally married in a legal separation. Therefore, if the parties later decide they want to proceed with a divorce proceeding, they will need to refile an entirely new proceeding with another court filing fee.

What happens after Letters are issued? 2018-06-17T17:50:37+00:00

After Letters are issued in a California probate, there is a four-month waiting period before the estate may be closed and distributed, during which time the creditors are allowed to file their claims. During this time, all bank accounts in the decedent’s name should be transferred to estate accounts in your name as the estate representative. All money received during the probate process should be deposited into the estate checking account and expenses of administration such as court costs and publication fees should be paid from the estate account. Detailed information should be kept about each deposit.

Is there a deadline to complete a divorce or legal separation? 2018-06-17T17:50:07+00:00

There is no imposed “deadline” for two people to complete a divorce or legal separation but the courts do not want cases sitting idle and will ultimately dismiss the case if there is no activity over a long period. There are usually deadlines to file the Proof of Service and to file proof of completing the mandatory preliminary disclosures. Sometimes courts will set follow-up status conference dates when the Petition is filed to make sure the case is moving along. Refer to your paperwork for a court notice about scheduled status conference dates. If the actions stated in the notice have not been completed, the Petitioner and/or Respondent may be required to appear before the Judge and explain the delay.

What is the residency requirement for California divorce? 2018-06-17T17:50:38+00:00

The residency requirement for California divorce provides that at least one of the spouses has to have been a resident of the state of California for at least six months before filing the divorce petition. You must also live in the county where you file the divorce petition for at least three months before filing. If neither spouse meets the six month residency requirement for California divorce, they can file a legal separation and then amend the Petiton at a later time once they have met the residency requirements.

What are probate calendar notes? 2018-06-17T17:50:37+00:00

In larger counties, after a petition is filed, someone from the court examines the probate petition before the hearing to see if it is complete and conforms to certain requirements. Notes and notations are made by the examiner several days before the hearing. Often you can access these probate notes on line through the court’s website.

If the notes indicate that additional information is required or corrections should be made, you may prepare a supplement to the petition providing the necessary information and file it before the hearing. It is quite common for the probate notes to reflect deficiencies or request additional information that requires the filing of a Supplement to the Petition. Sometimes there is adequate time to address the probate notes prior to the scheduled hearing.

Whether the case is filed by an attorney or a petitioner in pro per, only about 20% of all probate cases filed are approved on the first hearing.

 

What happens at the first hearing in probate court? 2018-06-17T17:50:07+00:00

Although only about 20% of all probate filings get approved at the first hearing, if your case is one of the lucky ones and all goes well, the Order for Probate will be approved. At that point, the Court Clerk can issue the Letters. “Letters” is the document of authority that starts the probate timeline and gives the personal representative the authority to manage the assets of the estate and do their other duties.

If there are deficiencies or requested supplemental information that are not able to be addressed prior to the court hearing, the court will continue the matter to a future date to allow a supplement be filed. This is quite common, and a Petitioner should not be alarmed when this happens in their case. It is important, however, to pay particular attention to what deficiencies or other information the court is being requested. You can then relay this information to the person assisting you with your probate paperwork, assuming you are representing yourself in the case.

Ideally, if the court approves the Petition, the Petitioner should get a conformed and file-stamped copy of the Order for Probate and well as several certified copies of the Letters immediately after the hearing. Keep in mind, however, Letters are only issued in full probate. Letters are not issued in small estate proceedings or spousal property proceedings.

The Letters and the Order for Probate are essential, and every effort should be made to get them as soon as possible. In addition to getting a file-stamped copy of the Order, we suggest getting 2-3 certified copies of the Letters, as well. Keep in mind, however, that some courts do not issue the Order for Probate at the hearing. In this regard, the court will mail a copy of the Order several days after the hearing. Unfortunately, the Court Clerk cannot issue the Letters until the judge signed the Order for Probate. As you can see, this delay prevents the personal representative from getting certified copies of the Letters when they are at the hearing. When this happens, it may be necessary for the personal representative to return to the court after they receive the filed Order for Probate in the mail to pay for and order certified copies of the Letters from the Court Clerk.

 

What is the difference between a corporation and an LLC? 2018-06-17T17:51:08+00:00

Corporations are formed pursuant to state law and have shareholders, are managed by a board of directors, and the daily affairs are administered by officers. Similarly, a limited liability company (LLC) has members and may be managed by one or more managers. Most often, both entities must pay franchise taxes, but may have different federal tax liabilities.

Generally, most people form corporations or limited liability companies to shield the shareholders or members and officers or managers from personal liability for the debts and obligations of the entity. There may also be various tax advantages to forming these entities which may not be available for a sole proprietorship or general partnership.

This office cannot provide information as to whether a person should incorporate or form a limited liability company or a partnership. If you are contemplating forming any of these entities you should consult with private counsel about your individual situation.

What is a probate referee? 2018-06-17T17:50:37+00:00

A “probate referee” appraises certain assets in the estate as of the date of the decedent’s death. After the Order for Probate is signed and the referee appointed by the court, the estate representative is responsible for preparing the inventory of the assets subject to probate for the referee to appraise. This is done on an “Inventory and Appraisal” form with attachments describing the assets owned by the decedent that are subject to probate. The completed Inventory form is sent to the probate referee who will appraise the assets listed on the attachments, place values on the inventory schedule and return for filing with the probate court. Sometimes it is possible to have the court waive appraisal by a probate referee.

Is my corporate name available? 2018-06-17T17:51:36+00:00

This office will perform a non-binding name check for name availability within the state of incorporation. The name check is performed by us at no additional charge where available. Please remember that the final determination is made by the state officials; thus, never rely on a corporate name check until AFTER you have received a copy of your filed Articles of Incorporation, stamped with the state’s approval.

How long does an annulment take? 2018-06-17T17:49:39+00:00

An annulment always requires a court hearing. If the other side does not file a Response to the Petition for Annulment, a hearing can be requested 30 days after the date of service. At the hearing, a Judgment can be entered if the annulment is approved and the case is completed at that time. There is no future “termination date”  and parties would be able to remarry immediately.

How soon can a Judgment of divorce be entered in California? 2018-06-17T17:50:38+00:00

Once you file the divorce petition and serve it on your spouse, the earliest effective date of termination of marital status will be six months and 1 day from the date your spouse was served the divorce papers. The actual Judgment can be entered prior to this termination date and can be submitted  to the court for processing any time starting 31 days after your spouse was served.

Why is the probate court requiring a bond? 2018-06-17T17:50:07+00:00

A probate bond is an insurance policy for associated parties of the decedent should the executor breach a fiduciary duty while administering the decedent’s estate during probate.

The bond’s size generally correlates with the estate’s size.  For example, per Probate Code § 8482(a)(1)-(3), “the court in its discretion may fix the amount of the bond, but the amount of the bond shall be not more than the sum of:

  1. The estimated value of the personal property.
  2. The probable annual gross income of the estate.
  3. If independent administration is granted as to real property, the estimated value of the decedent’s interest in the real property.”

A bond is not required in the following situations:

  • The will waives bond. Prob Code §8481(a)(1). It should be noted that the court may require bond even though the will waives the requirement of bond if:
  • All beneficiaries in writing waive bond and the will did not require bond or there is no will. Probate Code §8481(a)(2).
  • A trust company is appointed executor. Probate Code §§83, 301(a).
Do I need to file a DBA (‘Doing Business As’)? 2018-06-17T17:51:08+00:00

Individuals and unincorporated entities that regularly conduct business using an assumed name (often called a DBA ) must file an assumed name certificate with the county clerk in each county in which business premises are maintained. If corporations, limited liability companies or limited partnerships (entities created by filing with the secretary of state) do business with a name that is different from the name in the organizational documents, they must file assumed name certificates in the county or counties where the registered office and the principal office are located, and must also file with the secretary of state.

Can a minor receive property in probate? 2018-06-17T17:50:08+00:00

Usually property cannot be distributed to minor unless a guardian has been appointed for the minor’s estate. There are some exceptions, however, if the amount to be distributed is small, the decedent’s will names a custodian to receive the minor’s property or the minor has a court-appointed guardian.

If there is no appointed guardian, and the decedent did not nominate a custodian to receive the minor’s property but the total estate of the minor (what the minor already owns plus what they are inheriting) does not exceed $5,000, then money or other personal property being inherited by the minor may be delivered to a parent of the minor. They can hold it in trust for the minor until they reach age 18.

If the minor has no guardian of the estate and the decedent did not nominate a custodian, but the property to be transferred does not exceed $10,000 in value, the personal representative may, under certain conditions, designate another adult as custodian. These conditions are:

  • The personal representative must believe the transfer is in the best interest of the minor
  • The will must not prohibit the transfer or contain provisions inconsistent with the transfer.

If money is to be distributed to a minor, the court may order that the money be deposited in a bank account, subject to court supervision.

How do I open an estate bank account? 2018-06-17T17:50:07+00:00

Most representatives will need to open an estate bank account after probate has been filed. Once you open an estate bank account, decedent’s savings and checking accounts, if any, are typically transferred into the estate’s name. In order to open an estate bank account, you will need to present a certified copy of the Letters to the bank. Letters will be issued to you after the initial hearing when the court issues the Order for Probate.

Cash and uncashed checks in the possession of the decedent at the time of his death, and subsequent receipts should be deposited in the estate checking account. Any estate creditor payment should be made by check. Personal representatives should not commingle their own funds with estate funds. Substantial amounts of estate funds should not be kept for any appreciable period in the estate checking account. Instead, funds not required for current expenditures and distributions should be kept in an interest-bearing estate savings account.

If I incorporate, will doing so prevent others from using my company name? 2018-06-17T17:51:08+00:00

Incorporating will not keep another business from using your name. Generally, every business must protect its own business name and the good will that it has acquired from the sale of its goods or services in a specific geographic area. Filing articles of incorporation only prevents the secretary of state from filing a document to create another corporation, limited liability company or limited partnership that has the same, a deceptively similar, or similar name as the entity already in existence.

What are ways to serve divorce papers? 2018-06-17T17:49:39+00:00

There are several ways divorce, legal separation or annulment papers can be served on the other party.

Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt: In most of our cases, the other party simply voluntarily signs a Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt. By signing this form, they voluntary accept service of the papers. Signing this form does not mean they agree with what the Petition asks for, but simply avoids having to be formally served by a process server. Since the divorce “clock” starts on the day of service, if your spouse has been provided with the paperwork and a Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt but is delaying returning it, you may want to have them formally served.

Formal Service: If a person is not willing to sign a Notice and Acknowledgment of Receipt, you should arrange to serve them by a process server. The fee for this service will vary but usually costs between $75-$150. If attempt has been made for serve a party through a process server and they are unsuccessful, you may need to ask the court permission to serve them by publication.

Service by Publication: Sometimes a spouse goes missing and their whereabouts are unknown. The court will allow a party to serve their spouse by publication after showing that they have made every effort to find them. Efforts include 1) investigative report by private investigator 2) request for forwarding address with post office 3) internet and social media search and 3) contacting relatives and friends. Most courts will accept a professional investigative report but other courts require every effort to be made before approving an application to serve by Publication.

Do you have to appear in court for divorce? 2018-06-17T17:50:38+00:00

Do you have to appear in court for divorce? Probably not, if you and your spouse can agree to all terms of the divorce: child custody and visitation, property division, spousal and child support etc. When the parties agree, the case can usually be settled as a non-contested divorce without ever appearing before a judge. A Marriage Settlement Agreement (MSA) is presented to the court for approval by the judge that outlines all the specifics of the above items. The judge will grant the Final Judgment incorporating all the elements of the MSA without ever seeing the parties in person.

If you and your spouse cannot or do not agree and your spouse does not file a Response to the Petition for divorce, it is possible to get a unilateral Judgment by default. There is extra paperwork that the court will need if there are issues that must be addressed in the Judgment such as child support, child custody and visitation, or the division of community property and debt. A party still will not have to appear in court to get a Judgment, but it will be up to the Judge to sign and approve the proposed Judgment terms because the court wants to be sure that the party who has not appeared in the case is being treated fairly and equitable.

When can a probate be closed? 2018-06-17T17:50:37+00:00

The probate estate may be closed any time after the expiration of the creditor’s claim period (four months from the date letters are issued) if all debts and taxes have been paid or sufficiently secured, and no problems prevent the estate from being closed. In order to close the estate, the personal representative must file a Petition for Final Distribution. If the court approved the Petition, the estates assets can be distributed to the heirs or beneficiaries.

Do I need to use Incorporation, Co. or Company after the name I have chosen? 2018-06-17T17:51:08+00:00

Yes. The Secretary of State requires that you use one of the above so that your customers know they are dealing with a Corporation. We will check the name that you are requesting to see if it is available. If the name is not available, we will contact you about your alternatives.

Is there a deadline to return paperwork that has been prepared? 2018-06-17T17:49:07+00:00

As a self-represented individual, the client is always in control of their own legal processes. Once our office has emailed a client completed paperwork for signature, it is up to the client when they want to proceed with the next step of signing and returning the documents for further processing. Clients should keep in mind, however, that California forms are subject to updates and revisions by the Judicial Council of California. A substantial delay in returning completed documents could result in paperwork having to be reprocessed due to a form update, which would incur a reprocessing fee.

Can I return my signed documents by email? 2018-06-17T17:49:07+00:00

Many courts are converting to efiling. This, unfortunately, does not eliminate the need for our office to have original, signed documents returned to us. When returning signed documents, please make sure you mail the original, signed documents to our corporate office by mail. In some instances, we can start the processing with an electronic version of signed documents, but this is not the case in all circumstances. Either way, our office will always require original signed documents to be returned to us if we are processing them with the court or other agency.

How can I obtain a child custody and support order? 2018-06-17T17:49:08+00:00

Either party can file a Request for Order to have the court make a temporary child custody, visitation and/or support order. This triggers the court scheduling a mandatory mediation sessions. Some courts also require the parties to attend a pre-mediation class or a parenting class.  Most child custody disputes are settled through the mediation process. If the parties do not reach an agreement through mediation, the matter will go before a Judge. The mediator will present the Judge with their recommendation. Often the Judge will go along with the mediator’s recommendation. Once a parenting plan has been put into place, the judge can then set a child support order. Many factors are considered when ordering child support. This includes the amount of time each parent spends with the child(ren), each parent’s income and expenses, and the children’s living expenses.

Can I put down my home address for the business? 2018-06-17T17:51:08+00:00

Yes. The business address must be within the state in which you are incorporating. If you are using the registered agent’s address, that will be the address for the business place.

What is Court Call? 2018-06-17T17:49:07+00:00

Court Call is a service that allows parties in a court case to appear at their scheduled hearing by the phone. Appearing through Court Call is not an option in every county nor with every type of legal proceedings. Therefore, you should check with the court to make sure that appearing through Court Call in your particular matter will be permissible. To arrange an appearance through Court Call, visit their website their website to see if your case is being heard at a participating court.  You will need to register your account and let the court know that you intend to appear at your hearing using Court Call.

How can I obtain an order for spousal support? 2018-06-17T17:49:08+00:00

Once you have an assigned case number, either party can file a Request for Order to obtain a temporary spousal support order. California judges typically issue support orders based on California guidelines. A People’s Choice can run this guideline report to give you an idea of what a court may award in your particular case. On the other hand, you and your spouse can address this issue through mediation if you are unable to come to an agreement. Contact A People’s Choice for help resolving your spousal support dispute.

Do I need to publish a notice of incorporation? 2018-06-17T17:51:08+00:00

While a few jurisdictions require publication of the corporate name to be published in a newspaper local to the county of the registered agent (Georgia, Arizona, Illinois, and Pennsylvania), most jurisdictions do not require publication unless an existing unincorporated business intends to incorporate without a change in its name; that business must then publish its intent to incorporate in the local newspaper for four consecutive weeks (in most jurisdictions). California does not have this requirement.

How long is the incorporation process? 2018-06-17T17:51:09+00:00

Processing times for incorporating a company vary and change constantly depending on the workload at the state office. Please ask one of our representatives for our most current approximation of the current processing time for Articles of Incorporation. Non-expedited processing with the California Secretary of State can often take several months. We offer expedited services with a 5-7 day turn around as well as 24 hour processing for an extra fee.

My spouse cheated. Do I have to still pay support? 2018-06-17T17:49:08+00:00

The faithfulness of a spouse generally has no bearing on child or spousal support. California family law requires both parents to pay child support. However, one parent may be required to pay more support than the other if he/she earns more money and spends less time with the child.

What is a waiver of accounting? 2018-06-17T17:49:39+00:00

A waiver of accounting is a voluntary waiver by all heirs and beneficiaries that eliminates a very time-consuming and expensive accounting process by the Personal Representative. In order for a probate estate to be closed, the court requires the filing of a petition for final distribution. When the petition for final distribution is filed, the court requires a detailed accounting of all the monies and other items received and all monies paid out during the probate administration. The accounting, however may be waived when all persons who are entitled to receive property from the estate have signed a written waiver of accounting. Preparing an accounting is time-consuming, expensive and unnecessary when all the beneficiaries are in agreement. Most importantly, the waiver of accounting simplifies the closing of the estate.

A People’s Choice requires that all beneficiaries and heirs sign a waiver of accounting in probate matters we handle.

What is a registered agent? 2018-06-17T17:51:09+00:00

The registered agent for Service of Process is a person designated by your corporation to accept service of civil documents on behalf of the corporation. They must have an address within the state of incorporation. Anyone who has a street address (NO PO BOXES) within the state of incorporation may act as a registered agent for the corporation. A People’s Choice can act as the registered agent for service for your California corporation or LLC for a low, annual fee.

What is the difference between separate and joint property? 2018-06-17T17:49:39+00:00

Separate property is typically property that you owned before you got married. It also includes property that you inherited, even if you inherited it after you got married. Property that was acquired after the marriage but may be titled in only one of the parties’ names is considered community property, not separate property.

Joint property (community property) is property that you acquired with your spouse during the marriage, no matter if it is only in the name of one of the parties. Keep in mind, however, that a community property interest in separate property can be later acquired by a spouse in some situations. For example, if one party had a rental property before they were married, but joint/community funds were used to take care of that property (mortgage payments, taxes, maintenance, etc), an unrecorded community property interest for the spouse that is not on title may accumulate a community property interest in that property.

Do documents need to be notarized? 2018-06-17T17:49:07+00:00

Most family law documents that are filed with the court do not require notarization. The one exception is the Marital Settlement Agreement which will need to be signed in front of a notary by both parties.

What is a corporate officer? 2018-06-17T17:51:09+00:00

While most jurisdictions allow the same person to act in all capacities, that person has different responsibilities depending on the capacity in which he or she is acting.

  • President
  • Vice president
  • Treasurer
  • Secretary (or clerk)
  • Assistant secretary
  • Assistant treasurer

Although most jurisdictions allow one person to serve in the three capacities of President, Treasurer and Secretary, the person’s responsibility and authority changes through the different officer positions the person assumes. For example, the president is typically responsible for entering into contracts for the corporation, the treasurer is responsible for maintaining and accounting for corporate funds, and the secretary is responsible for observing corporate formalities and maintaining corporate records.

In addition to these required officer positions, a corporation may also have vice presidents and/or assistant secretaries or assistant treasurers.

Typically, the authority and responsibilities of each officer are described in the corporate bylaws and may be further defined by an employment contract or job description.

The president: The president has the overall executive responsibility for the management of the corporation and is directly responsible for carrying out the orders of the board of directors. He or she is usually elected by the board of directors.

The treasurer: The treasurer is the chief financial officer of the corporation and is responsible for controlling and recording its finances and maintaining corporate bank accounts. Actual fiscal policy of the corporation may rest with the board of directors and be largely controlled by the president on a day-to-day basis.

The secretary: The secretary is typically responsible for maintaining the corporate records.

What is a default judgment? 2018-06-17T17:49:39+00:00

A default judgment is an easy way to get a final divorce judgment, and can be obtained when the other spouse does not formally file a Response to the Petition. A “Default Judgment” can occur when the other spouse (the respondent) does not formally respond to the Summons and Petition for Dissolution. When a case proceeds by way of a default judgment, the other party does not have to pay a “first appearance fee” which is now $435.00.  It should be noted, however, that in most default judgement cases, the parties mutually agree to resolve all of their issues surrounding their marriage. Their agreement is formalized in a marital settlement agreement which is then attached to the Judgment and becomes a court order.

Sometimes, however, the parties do not sign a marital settlement agreement. Perhaps there are no assets or debts to divide and no issues of child custody, visitation, support or spousal support. In this situation, there is no need for a marital settlement agreement. When there are no assets or debts to divide and no other issues to be addressed, the judgment paperwork is fairly simple.

In other situations, the other spouse may be refusing to cooperate. When this happens, obtaining a default judgment is a little more complicated and requires extra paperwork to address the issues of assets, debts, children or support.

Can the parties agree to waive the required Financial Disclosures? 2018-06-17T17:50:38+00:00

California law requires financial disclosure in divorce. This means that both parties are mandated by law to exchange financial information which includes a statement of assets and debts and community and separate property. There are two disclosures that are required under California law, the preliminary disclosure and the final disclosure. When the parties sign a marital settlement agreement, the preliminary disclosures between the parties cannot be waived under any circumstances.  If there is no marital settlement agreement and the matter is proceeding as a default case, the Petitioner will have to complete thee mandatory preliminary disclosure but can waive Respondent’s preliminary disclosure. Failure to properly complete the preliminary disclosure process could result in a final Judgment being later set aside. The final disclosure can be mutually waived by both parties.

What is a corporate director? 2018-06-17T17:51:09+00:00

The board of directors is essentially the management body for the corporation.

Responsibilities of the board of directors include establishing all business policies and approving major contracts and undertakings. In addition, the board may also elect the president. Ordinary business practices of the corporation are carried out by the officers and employees under the directives and supervision of these directors.

The directors must act collectively for their votes and decisions to be valid. That’s why directors may only act at a board of directors meeting. This, however, requires certain formalities. One such formality is that the directors must all be notified of a forthcoming meeting in a prescribed manner, although this can be waived or provided for in the corporation’s Articles of Incorporation or bylaws.

For a directors’ meeting to be valid, there must also be a quorum of directors present. A quorum is usually a majority of the directors then serving on the board; however, the bylaws may specify another minimum number or percentage.

The board of directors must meet on a regular basis (monthly or quarterly), but in no case less than annually. These are the regular board meetings. The board may also call special meetings for matters that may arise between regular meetings. In addition, boards may call a special shareholders’ meeting by adopting a resolution stating where and when the meeting is to be held and what business is to be transacted.

The first meeting of the board of directors is important because the bylaws, the corporate seal, stock certificates and record books are adopted.

Board members, like officers, have a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the corporation and cannot put their own interests ahead of the corporation’s. The board must also act prudently and not negligently manage the affairs of the corporation. Finally, the board must make certain that it properly exercises its authority in managing the corporation and does not abrogate its responsibilities to others.

This means that the board must be very careful to document that each board action was reasonable, lawful and in the best interests of the corporation. This is particularly true with matters involving compensation, dividends and dealings involving officers, directors and stockholders. The record or corporate minutes of the meeting must include the arguments or statements to support the board action and must detail why the action was proper.

I cannot locate my spouse to serve divorce papers 2018-06-17T17:50:37+00:00

In order to complete the California divorce process, the other party must be provided legal notice of the divorce proceedings. This can be done by 1) voluntary acceptance of the documents, 2) personal service of the documents, or 3) legal publication.

Using Investigator in California Divorce To Locate Spouse

If you have filed a California divorce, cannot find your spouse and you want to go ahead with the process, you may be able to serve them through legal publication. In order for the court to allow one party to serve the other party through legal publication, attempts must be made to find the missing spouse. This is typically done by hiring an investigator (usually approximately $100-$150) to try to find a current address for the missing spouse. The investigator will give a formal report of their investigative results and in many cases, will find a valid address for personal service.

Serving by Publication in Divorce When You Cannot Find Spouse

In some instances the investigator may not be able to find a viable address for service and a spouse cannot be found. At that point, application can be made to the court showing what attempt has been made to find the other party and ask that the court allow the party to be served through publication. This means that the Summons will be published once and week for 4 weeks in a newspaper approved by the court to offer notice to the missing spouse. Service by publication is complete at the end of the 28th day after the first date the document is published in the newspaper. If at any point during the 28 days of publication you find your spouse or partner’s address, you must have someone 18 or older mail a copy of the documents to him or her and file a Proof of Service by Mail (Form FL-335) and return to you to file with the court.

Can the same person be the shareholder, director and all officers of a corporation? 2018-06-17T17:51:08+00:00

While jurisdictions will vary in their requirements, most states require that there be at least one director and two officers, in a general, for-profit corporation. The required officers are president and secretary. Most states allow one natural person to hold both offices and be the sole director of the corporation. Usually, that one person may also be the sole shareholder. A corporation may not be a director of another corporation.

How do I enforce a retirement plan division in divorce? 2018-06-17T17:50:37+00:00

The enforcement of a retirement plan division in divorce requires the parties to file a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) with the court . A copy of the filed QDRO is then given to the Plan administrator. The QDRO will outline the division of retirement benefits according to the Judgment of divorce or legal separation. Typically the divorce Judgment will explain how the retirement benefits are to be divided. Most Plans provide a package of instructions regarding the Plan’s language requirements for a QDRO. A draft of the QDRO is sent to the Plan Administrator for pre-approval. Once the QDRO has been pre-approved by the Plan Administrator, the QDRO is signed by both parties and submitted to the court for filing. Most Plans require receipt of a certified copy of the filed QDRO before they will divide the retirement benefits pursuant to the provisions of the retirement plan division in the divorce.

What are Articles of Incorporation? 2018-06-17T17:51:09+00:00

A Corporation’s “Articles of Incorporation” is the main filing document which begins the corporation’s existence under state law. Once filed, the corporation comes into existence.

The level of complexity for a corporation’s Articles of Incorporation can range from very simple to extremely complex. Generally, most jurisdictions require Articles of incorporation to contain, at a minimum, information about the corporate name, the registered agent, and the corporation’s business address. Requirements vary by state.

I received a Notice of Entry of Judgment. Is my case over? 2018-06-17T17:49:08+00:00

If you received a Notice of Entry of Judgment, this usually means that the court has approved and entered a Judgment in your case. If you and your spouse signed a Marital Settlement Agreement, the Judgment will have that agreement attached which has now become a court order. Take a look at the Notice of Entry of Judgment document carefully. On the form there will be a section with a box around it that pertains to the termination date of the marriage. Often in our cases, the Judgment is entered long before the termination date of the marriage. Once you have located the termination date of the marriage, this is the date that you will officially be considered “single”.  What does this mean? Although your divorce case may be completed in the court’s eyes, don’t get remarried until after the termination date as noted on this form!

Keep in mind, sometimes it is possible to split the divorce issues from the act of dissolving the marriage. This allows the parties to terminate their marriage without resolving all of the issues of the marriage. In that case, some aspects of the divorce may still be pending. Lastly, if the Judgment includes retirement division, the QDRO process is a separate process that continues after the Judgment has been entered.

What are Bylaws? 2018-06-17T17:51:09+00:00

Bylaws serve as the internal operating document for the corporation. Generally, Bylaws detail the responsibilities, rights, and duties of directors, shareholders and officers. Currently, states generally do not require that Bylaws be filed.

Where can I get a corporate seal? 2018-06-17T17:51:09+00:00

While many jurisdictions have abolished the requirement of maintaining a corporate seal, many corporations still prefer to maintain a corporate seal as a formality. Corporate seals range in price from $8 (rubber stamp) to about $75 (steel embosser).  Your can order your corporate seal through our office. You’ll need the name of your corporation and the date of incorporation before you can order it.

What document is considered my divorce decree? 2018-06-17T17:49:39+00:00

When a divorce Judgment has been entered, there are two important documents.

  1. Judgment (FL-180)
  2. Notice of Entry of Judgment (FL-190)

The Judgment has the details of the division of assets, debts, child support, custody, visitation, etc. If the parties sign a Marital Settlement Agreement, that is typically attached to and is a part of the Judgment document.  This document would be considered the divorce decree of Judgment.

The Notice of Entry of Judgment is simply a Notice of court action. This document has the date of termination of the marriage and lets both parties know that the case is now considered concluded by the court.

If many of our cases, the Judgment is entered months before the termination date of the marriage. Be aware that the court will not send any subsequent documentation to the parties regarding the termination date. The termination date will simply pass and at that point the parties are free to remarry.

What is a Federal Employer ID Number? 2018-06-17T17:51:09+00:00

If you plan on opening a bank account under your corporate name, most banks will require that your corporation have a Federal Employers’ Identification Number.

A Federal Tax Identification Number (also known as a “95 Number” or “EIN Number” ) is a number assigned to a corporation or LLC by the Federal Government for purposes of taxation. The Federal Tax ID Number is to a corporation or LLC as a Social Security Number is to an individual. Most banks require that a corporation or LLC obtain a Federal Tax Identification Number as a prerequisite to opening a bank account regardless of whether the company will have employees. This office can prepare your Federal Tax Identification Number Application (IRS form SS4) at your request. Once you receive the prepared application from our office, you may contact the IRS with the completed form and obtain the actual “95 Number” over the telephone in just minutes!

Does a corporation have to issue stock? 2018-06-17T17:51:09+00:00

Shares of stock represent ownership of the corporation. Where no shares are issued, no individual owns the corporation. Thus, shares must be issued to those individuals who will own the corporation. While most states have created many exceptions and exemptions from registering a stock issuance with the State or with the SEC for most small businesses, it may be wise to contact the appropriate entity to determine whether you must file a notice of stock issuance on a state or federal level.

Because this office is a non-attorney, legal document preparation service, our company CANNOT be involved with your corporation’s stock issuance. We will provide you with a custom stock certificate that you can use to issue the corporate stock. For help regarding your corporation’s stock issuance, please contact a licensed attorney or the appropriate state entity.

What is par value? 2018-06-17T17:51:09+00:00

A business corporation must sell shares of stock in order to capitalize the corporation, that is, provide the corporation with its own capital, separate from the money of its owners. This separation provides part of the support for shielding the shareholders from personal liability for the debts and obligations of the corporation.

Shares of stock sold by the corporation represent proportionate ownership interests held by shareholders in the corporation. Par value is a dollar value assigned to shares of stock which is the minimum amount for which each share may be sold. There is no minimum or maximum value that must be assigned. Shares may also have no par value, which means that the board of directors will assign a value to the stock below which the shares cannot be issued.

There is no minimum number of shares that must be authorized in the articles of incorporation. One or more shares may be authorized. However, the corporation may not sell more shares than it is authorized to issue and it must receive consideration in exchange for its shares.

Can I protect a trade name nationwide? 2018-06-17T17:51:08+00:00

There is no national registration of trade names. Generally, businesses, including corporations, protect their trade names by registering their trade name as a service mark or trademark, if the trade name also functions as a service mark or trademark. Because of the legal complexities involved, we recommend that businesses obtain private counsel to get advice on how to protect a trade name in interstate commerce.

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