Here are some things you need to know. First, if you choose to hire an attorney to file probate in Napa County, you will pay the attorney a statutory fee (set by law) to probate the estate. Moreover, unlike other types of cases, the fee the attorney receives is calculated on the gross value of the estate, not the amount of work done. Accordingly, as a fee for services, the attorney is entitled to a statutory percentage of the total value of the estate. Unfortunately, the gross value of the estate does not consider debt or liabilities.
Here is an example of how the attorney fee structure works. If a house is worth $500,000 but has a mortgage of $475,000, the fee the attorney will receive is based on the $500,000 gross value, not the $25,000 net worth. For this reason, consider working with an experienced legal document preparer to resolve your probate matters. Doing so can save you thousands of dollars in attorney fees. Probate involves the court-supervised process of administering the contents of a deceased person’s estate. Administering the estate includes paying any outstanding debts and taxes before distributing any remaining assets to beneficiaries and heirs. Working with a knowledgeable legal document assistant, you can easily complete a probate case within a year of filing.
Napa County Probate Process
The estate’s Executor is responsible for probating the estate. You must probate the decedent’s estate in the county they last resided during the previous 30 days before death. If the decedent had a Will, the Will probably nominated someone (an Executor) to represent the state. Alternatively, if there was no will or if the will failed to name an Executor, the court will appoint an Administrator to serve the estate. Conversely, all the beneficiaries or heirs can collectively agree to which person is best to represent the estate.
In brief, probate begins by filing a Petition to Probate with the court. Next, the court will issue Letters which authorize the personal representative to act on behalf of the estate. Some of the duties of the representative include making an inventory of the decedent’s assets and getting assets appraised. The representative is also responsible for paying all outstanding debts owed by the decedent. Accordingly, paying debts may require the representative to sell some or all the assets to pay taxes and outstanding debts. Keep in mind, the personal representative is not responsible for valuing the assets. The probate referee does this job. The probate referee will appraise all non-monetary assets for the representative . Lastly, once the value of the estate is determined and debts paid, the representative can ask the court for permission to distribute the remaining assets to the heirs.
Keep in mind, most probates are routine and straightforward. However, probate matters may become contested if beneficiaries believe the will does not clearly define which assets should go to whom. Furthermore, the personal representative must resolve all creditor claims must before the court will hear contested beneficiary claims.
Once the personal representative has settled all claims and paid all debts, they can distribute all remaining assets to the decedent’s beneficiaries and heirs. If the decedent died without a Will, the court will order the representative to distribute the assets according to California’s intestate succession laws.
Where to File Probate in Napa County
As mentioned above, probate is the legal process of validating a decedent’s will, supervising the complete administration of the will, and distributing the estate’s assets to beneficiaries and heirs. The court hears Napa County probate cases at the following place:
825 Brown St.
Napa, CA 94559
Office hours are from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. Furthermore, this court has approved efiling of probate documents through one of their approved efiling providers. In addition, as with most courts, the Napa County Superior Court offers online case information through the court’s website.
Napa County Probate Rules
Review local court rules before you file probate in Napa County. These Local Rules outline rules about how to provide parties with notice of the probate case and may also identify unique processes adopted by the Napa County court. In this regard, Rule 9 and subparts cover rules about probate cases. As an illustration, except for matters enumerated in Rule 9.3, the Napa County Probate Rules state that routine probate matters with no opposition and approved by a tentative ruling do not need a personal appearance. Conversely, if the case is not pre-approved by a tentative ruling, the tentative decision will show one of two resolutions. For example, the ruling might mention that the court is continuing the case for two weeks for defects to be corrected. Alternatively, the notes may show that the court is keeping the matter on the calendar and an appearance will be necessary.
Adjudicated Newspapers for Napa County
You must publish notice of probate in a local newspaper which the county has approved for legal notices. Contact the Court clerk for a current list of approved publications. Contact the probate division of the Napa County Superior Court at 707-299-1130.
Napa County Probate Examiner
The probate examiner holds a vital role in the probate process. Specifically, the job of the probate examiner is to check all probate documents filed to make sure there are no inconsistencies or missing information. Also, depending on the facts of the case, the probate examiner may point out questions or concerns for the judge to consider before they make a final ruling. These probate examiner “comments” are considered “probate notes” and should be reviewed before any scheduled hearing. Additional information can be submitted by the petitioner by filing a Supplement to the Petition.
As mentioned above, based on the tentative ruling, an appearance may or may not be required at your probate hearing. The Napa County Court posts daily Tentative Rulings online by 3 pm for the next court day’s hearings. Unfortunately, the court only publishes tentative rulings the day before the scheduled hearing. Therefore, it is impossible to file a Supplement to correct or clarify comments Remember, if the court does not post a tentative ruling on a particular matter, or if the tentative decision provides that an appearance is required, local rules require the parties to appear at the hearing.
Napa County Probate Referee
John W. Shackford is the acting probate referee for Napa County. He can be reached at:
P.O. Box 412
Napa, CA 94559-0412
Phone: (707) 255-8121 Ext. 16
FAX: (707) 253-9336
As mentioned above, the Probate Referee will value all non-cash assets owned by the decedent. These values are identified in the Inventory and Appraisal form which is later filed with the Court Clerk. Keep in mind, the probate referee charges an allowed statutory fee for these valuation services. Refer to this article for more information about the Probate Referee and his role and function in California probate cases.
How to File Probate in Napa County With a Lawyer
Contact A People’s Choice for more information on how to file probate in Napa County. Using our non-attorney probate services will undoubtedly save the estate thousands of dollars, putting more money into the pockets of the beneficiaries and heirs. We have helped thousands of families file probate in Napa County and complete the probate process without having to hire an attorney. Contact us today at 800-747-2780 to see how we can help you!