Losing a relative or spouse can be overwhelming. In addition to grief, such a loss often results in a lot of legal and financial implications. It may not be fun, but there are legal steps that you need to follow to ensure your loved one’s last wishes are properly carried out. If your loved one was one of the 35,000 residents of picturesque Lassen County, you’ll need to find out how to file probate in Lassen County Probate Court, California.
Probate can be a difficult process, but there are personal tools you can leverage to make the process much simpler. In this article, you will learn how to file probate in Lassen County, California as easily as possible.
What Is Probate?
Let’s start by defining this basic question. Probate is the legal process that goes into process when someone dies. During probate, an executor (a personal representative named in the will) does the following:
- Submits the last will and codicil of the deceased to the court for verification
- Collects and evaluates the estate assets
- Settles all estate taxes and debts
- Administer and manage the remaining assets according to the estate plans. This involves distributing inheritance to the testator’s (deceased person’s) beneficiaries.
What If There’s No Will?
Someone who dies without estate plans is said to have died intestate. Their property becomes subject to state administration. In other words, if there is no will, the person gets no say in how their estate is managed. However, such an estate still has to go through probate for the person’s survivors to legally inherit assets from the estate.
Is Probate Always Necessary?
Lots of people would like to avoid probate. The truth is, if an individual heeds legal advice and takes advantage of estate plans that are designed to avoid probate like some trusts, then probate is not necessary! However, this planning has to occur well in advance, and the owner of the estate must initiate it. In other words, if you’re in the position of executor now, there’s nothing you can do to change the estate around to avoid probate.
Find Out If You Can File Small Estate Probate in Lassen County
That being said, there are some states that do not qualify to go through probate. These estates are considered small estates, and they do not need the probate process for the estate to be administered and properties to be shared. Any estate in California that is valued below $166,250 (if death was before April 1, 2022) OR $184,500 (for deaths on or after April 1, 2022) is considered a small estate (including in Lassen County).
The procedure of determining if an estate qualifies as “small” is often referred to as summary probate. This process is not contingent on whether the deceased made a will before they passed on or not; it simply determines the value of the assets left behind.
How to File Probate in Lassen County Probate Court
The state of California, like every state in the United States, has its own probate process. There are also specifics for filing probate in Lassen County, CA. The probate process can be completed in the steps highlighted below.
Step 1: Filing the Probate Petition
The first step in initiating probate proceedings is filing a petition with the Superior Court of California, County of Lassen. Probate is one of the civil matters presided by the civil part of the court. A People’s Choice can help you fill out the legal forms correctly and completely so you can avoid delays.
When you’re ready, you submit your petition to the office of the county court clerk. The court then schedules a hearing in approximately a month. The courthouse location for Lassen County is:
Hall of Justice
2610 Riverside Drive
Susanville, CA 96130
Step 2: Notifying Relevant Parties
After filing the county courthouse and becoming approved as executor to oversee probate matters, it’s time to notify interested parties of the death. You need to publish a notice at least three times in the local newspaper and mail the notice to everyone mentioned in the will, along with all legal heirs of the deceased. Finally, you must also provide potential creditors with notice.
Step 3: Validating the Will
If there is a will, you have to prove the validity of the will unless it qualifies as a “self-proving” will. This step is unnecessary if the will includes an affidavit from the signee, specific legal language, or both.
Step 4: Inventorying Assets
One of the primary duties of the executor is the appraisal of estate assets. This involves taking inventory of the deceased person’s estate. The court usually requires the probate referee to complete an inventory of the estate property. Sometimes, it may also ask for an appraisal of certain properties.
As stated earlier in this article, there are some types of estate planning strategies that can hold real property for the purpose of avoiding probate. As the probate referee, you can set apart assets that aren’t subject to probate. Some types of assets that you probably need to inventory include:
- Stocks and Bonds
- Mutual Funds
- Brokerage Accounts
- Bank Accounts
- Real property (real estate). Be sure to look up real estate in the Lassen County land records office to be sure of jurisdiction.
- Personal property (cell phones, automobiles, jewelry, etc.)
Step 5: Settling Debts and Paying Taxes
Once the executor has provided notice of the death to creditors, those with claims against the estate can submit their claims. This can include lenders seeking a credit card payment or cash payments, for example. California requires creditors to submit their claims within four months of the start of the probate procedure. If those claims are determined to be valid by the court, they are paid from the estate. All valid debts must be paid before any heirs or beneficiaries can get their share.
In addition, the executor is responsible for making sure all estate taxes are paid to the appropriate county offices. These taxes include federal estate taxes and state taxes required by the state of California.
In most cases, a personal representative (another term for the executor in this case) is not be held personally liable for estate taxes or debts. However, if the executor distributes the estate before paying taxes and there isn’t sufficient value left to pay those taxes, they may become personally liable. That’s why it’s so important to pay debts before progressing to the next step.
Step 6: Distributing Assets
Next, distribute the remaining assets in the estate to the heirs and beneficiaries stipulated in the will. Anything not absorbed after paying debts should be distributed according to the decedent’s wishes during this step.
Step 7: Closing the Estate
The final step is closing the estate. This entails providing an accounting of everything you did like the personal representative with regard to the estate. At this point, you’ll need to file a report summarizing the estate and reports all actions taken on behalf of the estate with the court, and submit it to the county clerk.
The report includes paying fees to the personal representative and the estate attorney, if applicable. If there are no objections and the court approves the accounting, the court approves the estate closure, which becomes part of the county records.
How to File Probate in Lassen County, California: Fees
Generally, the cost of probate in Lassen County is the same as the general probate cost in California. Overall probate costs vary based on the size of the estate, its complexity, the estate plan in place, and other cogent factors. This makes it hard to accurately predict the cost of probate. However, at minimum, you can expect to pay these fees as outlined in the California uniform fee structure document:
- A $435 initial court and filing fee
- A probate bond based on the estate value
- The professional executor and attorney fees (if using either)
How Much Does a Probate Lawyer Cost?
If you’re opting for a lawyer to assist with your probate estate files, keep in mind that legal representatives often charge clients an hourly rate or a flat rate. However, in Lassen County, California, there are statutory guidelines that dictate attorney fees. These statutory fees allow an attorney to earn some percentage of the probate estate as their consultation fee. The state statute stipulates the percentages as follows:
- 4% of the first $100,000 of the gross value of the probate estate
- 3% of the next $100,000
- 2% of the next $800,000
- 1% of the next $9 million
- 0.5% of the next $15 million
If the estate is valued at over $25 million, the court decides a fair fee.
Let Us Show You How to File Probate in Lassen County
Yes, probate and dealing with estate case files can be cumbersome. But the probate process can be made easier by A People’s Choice! Our business is to provide our clients with legal, court-specific forms, and documents. We can help you save hundreds of dollars in attorney fees and a lot of time by preparing all the needed legal documents for filing probate at very affordable prices.
We offer services in Lassen County as well as surrounding counties, including Glenn County, Butte County, Amador County, Colusa County, Napa County, Sacramento County, Stanislaus County, Yuba County, and much more! Reach out to us today for a smooth, stress-free probate process.