Many of our clients approach us wondering how to do probate without a lawyer. Luckily, executors of estates do not always require an attorney’s assistance to efficiently and successfully probate a will. However, that doesn’t mean they have to do it alone. By enlisting the help of a legal document assistant such as A People’s Choice, you can save thousands of dollars in attorneys fees and get help completing and filing all of the required legal documents.
If you are a personal representative or executor of estate who wants to save money and simplify the probate process, follow these five steps to complete your probate without hiring a lawyer:
1. Check Out Small Estate Alternatives and Other Special Cases
Some simplified probate procedures could make settling your loved one’s estate much easier to do on your own. For example, small California estates worth $166,250 or less may be eligible for the California Small Estate Probate Affidavit. Additionally, estates worth $55,425 or less are often eligible for further simplified affidavits. Ultimately, whether you complete the probate totally on your own or with a registered legal document assistant, you’ll save time and money with these simplified processes.
Furthermore, transferring spousal property is another easy way to bypass the probate process. In fact, California law states that all property to which a surviving spouse or domestic partner is entitled to receive outright from a deceased spouse or partner may be “set aside” to the survivor without formal probate. Don’t miss out on the benefits available to special types of estates. In the end, you could save hundreds to thousands of dollars by taking advantage of California probate laws.
2. Consider Whether The Will is Contested or Complicated
When an interested party contests, or challenges, a will, the probate process becomes much more difficult. In fact, a person such as a beneficiary or heir has the right to stop the probate process altogether! At this point, you and the other interested parties will have to respond to the challenge and potentially attend an extra hearing with a judge. While contested wills are rare, they are often an indication that the executor could use an attorney’s support or representation.
Furthermore, if the estate is complicated in any way, you may want to consider consulting a lawyer for legal advice. For example, an estate that includes the administration of millions of dollars or outstanding debt can be tricky to handle on your own. In fact, defending such a complicated or extensive estate without an attorney could potentially result in a void will. Subsequently, the estate’s heirs and beneficiaries may not receive the inheritance the testator desired.
That said, if your review of the will indicates that the estate is straightforward, and no interested parties contest the decedent’s wishes, you’ll have an easier time doing probate on your own.
3. Research Local Court Rules and Other Requirements
As with any legal proceeding, local courts often have county-specific guidelines and forms. Therefore, if you are attempting to probate an estate without any assistance whatsoever, it’s imperative that you properly research your local county court’s regulations. Additionally, be sure to use a legal document assistant (LDA) or obtain your forms directly from your county court’s website. Oftentimes, individuals who try to probate an estate without legal assistance choose to use free, downloadable legal documents. While this is a great way to save money, these documents are often outdated or inappropriate for the estate and/or your local court. Luckily, working with an LDA such as A People’s Choice is a great way to avoid repaying to file documents for a second time.
4. Consult a Legal Document Assistant for Help With Required Forms and Filing Processes
Obtaining your legal documents from an LDA is a great way to ensure you’re utilizing the most optimal forms. However, LDAs such as A People’s Choice are also here to provide further assistance. For example, our no-frills probate petition documents-only service provides clients with the Order of Probate and Letters of Administration or Letters Testamentary with no court filing or preparation services. However, we also offer a full-service option complete with facilitation of court filings, arranging publication, administrative notices, and ongoing case management services. Click here to learn about all of our flat-fee probate pricing.
Finally, A People’s Choice offers a Quick Start Probate Interview that allows you to share your estate information with us before you hire our services. Not only does the Quick Start Interview provide us with the details necessary to start your probate case ASAP, but it also gives you an opportunity to collect the documentation you will require to probate the estate. Ultimately, learning how a legal document assistant can help you probate your loved one’s estate is risk-free and easy – and you may thank yourself later.