With natural splendor and wineries galore, Lake County, CA is home to nearly 70,000 residents. Unfortunately, occasionally life runs its course, and one of those residents passes away. If that occurs, that person’s executor must learn how to file probate in Lake County Probate Court.
If you’ve lost a loved one in Lake County and are the executor of the will, you may need to look into how to file probate in Lake County Probate Court. If so, you’ve come to the right place. This article explains the probate process and shows you how to navigate the Lake County Probate Court system.
How Does Probate Work?
First, let’s spend a bit of time exploring the topic of probate in general. If you’re already familiar with this and just want to know how to file probate in Lake County Probate Court, feel free to skip ahead!
Probate is a court-supervised process created to properly inventory and distribute a deceased person’s assets. Whether an individual left behind a will or not, unless they’ve made very specific estate planning arrangements or fit certain criteria, their will must go through probate. assets. One such example is for smaller estates; in California, properties below $166,250 (if death was before April 1, 2022) OR $184,500 (for deaths on or after April 1, 2022) don’t have to undergo probate.
The Role of the Probate Court
The probate court has legal powers over each step of the probate process. Essentially, it’s there to make sure the deceased person’s properties are distributed fairly and according to the decedent’s wishes.
Probate laws vary from state to state in the US. However, there are more commonalities than differences, so probate courts basically handle the probate matters under the same framework. If this intrigues you, you can find out more about probate law here.
Put simply, the probate process involves:
- Validating the will
- Taking stock of assets
- Paying debts
- Distributing assets to heirs
The Role of the Executor
The executor of a will is the person who the deceased trusts with handling their properties after death. Most times, the executor is named in the will. However, if the decedent dies without a will or dies intestate, the probate court appoints an executor to do the job.
If you’re the executor, you’ll have some roles to play to ensure everything runs well. Some of the primary activities during the probate process are detailed later in this article.
Is It Important to File Probate?
Most people term the probate process as tedious, exhausting, and time-consuming. Despite that, you can’t underestimate the importance of filing for probate.
Probate ensures appropriate transfer of funds and properties to beneficiaries. Even if an individual dies intestate (without a will), probate allocates the assets to the most appropriate parties. Therefore, filing probate serves the best interests of the deceased’s loved ones. It also prevents fraudulent activities like embezzlement of funds or falsification of documents.
If you’re the executor, you could face legal consequences for failing to take action. You can find out more about what happens if the executor does not probate the will in this article.
How to File Probate in Lake County Probate Court
Filing probate becomes simpler if you know how to navigate the process. If you make a mistake, you may have to deal with unnecessary delays and extra costs. By getting a good overview beforehand, you can go into the process better informed and know what to expect.
In this section, we cover how to file probate in Lake County Probate Court. Keep in mind that you need to start the process in Lake County Probate Court within 30 days of the death of the decedent.
Step 1: Fill out the required forms
The first thing to do as an executor after the death of a deceased person is to file for probate. To complete the probate application in court, you need to have the deceased’s will and their death certificate. You’ll need to submit these details for the county probate court records.
To complete this first step, when filing for probate at Lake County probate court, you have to first fill out a couple of legal forms. The fillable forms depend on whether or not the decedent died intestate. Some of the list of forms that you must attach include:
- Photocopy of the death certificate
- Original last will
- Probate application form
If you need help identifying and filling out the correct forms, you can contact us for help at any time.
Step 2: Submit the relevant documents and pay the filing fee
Once you’ve filled out and double-checked your probate forms, you need to find out the total fees and how you can pay them. In California, including Lake County Probate Court, the initial filing costs $435, with additional payments due later in the process. For details, check the full California fee schedule.
Lake County Superior Court, like most California courts, also accepts a wide range of payment methods for the filing fee. This includes cash, check, and credit card. As executor, you should be able to pay all relevant fees from the estate rather than out of pocket.
Step 3: Provide appropriate notice/citation to all parties involved
After filing the forms, paying the fees, and submitting the documents, the court issues an official notice called a “citation.” You’ll have to release the citation to the beneficiaries and all other involved parties, including creditors, to notify them of the ongoing probate. One way to notify possible heirs and beneficiaries is through a newspaper publication to the general public.
Along with the notice, heirs, and beneficiaries of the decedent receive a request to either confirm or oppose the will and your position as the executor. If someone objects, the court might need to schedule a hearing in the event of any complaints.
Step 4: Taking Stock of All Assets of the Deceased Person
If you’ve completed the above steps correctly, the court verifies the will and confirms your position as the executor. It’s then time to proceed with probate.
During this step, you must take an in-depth stock of all properties and assets of the deceased. You must also come up with estimates for their true value. This is done by identifying all physical, account, and tax details of the decedent and compiling them for the court. As you can imagine, this can be a time-consuming part of the process.
Step 5: Clearing Debts and Unpaid Creditors
Once you’ve taken inventory of assets, you have to pay estate debts. You have to compile the outstanding debts of the deceased, reach out to their creditors, and pay them off. Remember that death doesn’t relieve the deceased’s estate from taxes, either. The estate is still subject to pay taxes depending on its size.
Step 6: Appropriately Distributing the Estate to Heirs
Once you’ve taken care of all the debts, taxes, and other expenses, the remainder of the estate is distributed to heirs and beneficiaries according to the will or court ruling.
Probate with and without a Will
Probate case files are strongly affected by whether or not the decedent left a will. Here’s a quick rundown of what happens in each scenario.
Probate Process without a Will
When someone dies without a will, they are said to have died “intestate.” In Lake County Probate Court, it’s possible to file probate for an individual who died intestate. In this case, an executor (usually a close family member) is chosen by the court to oversee the process rather than by the decedent via their will.
Individuals who receive the final distribution in probate without a will are called “beneficiaries.” If an individual has no family or relative and dies intestate, state laws govern the sharing of their assets.
Probate Process with a Will
If you file probate with a will, then the will probably name the executor. The executor has to oversee the entire probate process. In Lake County Probate Court, an executor has to provide the last will of the deceased.
Keep in mind that the family and close relatives of the deceased can contest the appointed executor and the contents of the will. This can happen if they think the will has been tampered with or the decedent was pressured into making it. Such cases are settled through a court hearing.
When to Seek a Probate Lawyer
A probate attorney provides legal support, advice, and representation in the court and also helps hasten up the process. Although you may feel the urge to hire probate lawyers because of their knowledge and experience in probate matters, you may not actually need one.
Hiring a probate lawyer is quite costly, and not every estate is complex enough to merit the cost. A legal document assistant like A People’s Choice can be a great alternative.
Do You Need Help Filing Probate?
Filling the documents and paperwork required to file for probate can seem like an added burden during a difficult time. A People’s Choice is a great middle-ground between hiring an attorney and attempting the process without assistance.
If you need help with probate paperwork, you can count on us. Our team of legal document assistants can help you fill out complete and error-free probate documents to speed up your probate. To get started, contact us today at 800-747-2780.