• Probating a Will Without A Lawyer

How to Probate Without an Attorney in California

Probate is known as the settling of an estate and addresses several different aspects of the decedent’s assets, debts and distribution of property. Probate includes:

  • proving that the will (if there is one) of the deceased person is valid.
  • identifying, inventorying and appraising all property of the deceased person.
  • paying the debts and taxes of the decedent
  • distributing the property of the decedent according to their will or according to state law if there was no will.

The first step of probate is to prove the validity of a deceased person’s will and last testament, if in fact, there was a will executed by the person before they died.  This is not always the case, however, and it is quite common for an estate to be administered through a probate proceeding when there is no will. The estate’s representative will be required to administer the estate, present an inventory of the deceased person’s property, have the property appraised, pay any outstanding estate debts and taxes, and distribute any remaining assets and property to the beneficiaries named in the will. If there was no will, the property will be distributed to the heirs under California’s intestate succession laws.

The Pros & Cons of Probating a Will Without a Lawyer

For most executors or administrators, probating a will or administrating an estate is straightforward and requires little to no legal representation. If you are considering probating a will or administering an estate, contact us for your legal document preparation needs. Read on to learn more about the pros and cons of probating a will without a lawyer in California and how A People’s Choice can help you file a California probate.

The Pros of Handling Your Own Probate

Most lawyers will tell you that probating a will without an attorney is a bad idea. Nevertheless, we have helped hundreds of people do just that — probate a will without a lawyer — and have helped save them thousands of dollars in doing so. Use our convenient online probate calculator to see how much you will save as compared to using an attorney. The California probate process routinely takes between 5 to 7 months to complete and requires the completion of many forms to properly administer the estate. This is where we can help you.

You will need to collect information, such as documentation about the assets and property of the estate, to accurately complete the required court forms. The California probate process is multi-step and takes many months to complete. As a result, most people feel overwhelmed and often hire an attorney to do it. Though it may be in your best interest to hire an attorney in limited circumstances, we firmly believe most executors or personal representatives of the estate can administer an estate or probate a will without having to hire an attorney. Contact us to hear about our client’s probate success stories.

The Cons of Not Hiring an Attorney for Probate

Though there are several benefits of probating a will without a lawyer, in certain situations, it may be necessary to retain counsel. For example, in the event the will is challenged (example – someone claims that the person who made the will did not have the mental capacity to do so), or the estate involves the administration of millions of dollars and outstanding debts/taxes are owed, you may want to consider hiring an attorney. The attorney can provide legal representation to preserve the estate’s assets and limit liability. Defending an estate without an attorney in certain situations could result in the will be deemed void and the state administering the estate pursuant to statutory provisions. This could result in the estate’s heirs and beneficiaries not receiving the inheritance the testator desired. We have found that in most situations, the heirs or beneficiaries want to work together to close the estate, so these contested and complicated situations are rare.

Unfortunately, attorney fees for administering a will can be quite hefty depending on the value of the gross estate. For example, due to statutory probate fees, a probate attorney could collect at least 4% of the first $100,000.00, plus 3% of the next $100,000.00 plus 2% of the next $800,000.00 of the gross value of the probate estate. You can calculate the statutory fees in a California probate using our online probate calculator. As you can see, the attorney’s fees increase as the gross value of the estate increases. An average California estate with a house valued at $300,000 would automatically have attorney’s fees of $9,000 plus additional sums allowed by the court for extraordinary service. Extraordinary attorney’s service will include services pertaining to the selling of the real or personal property, dealing with debts, or other matters. In the most simple of estates, it is not uncommon for the attorney’s fees to be $10,000 to $15,000.

Fortunately,  in California, the will’s executor or estate’s administrator is not required to hire an attorney if he/she believes it is in the estate’s best interest not to do so. This means that as the representative of the estate, if you feel comfortable probating the estate without legal representation, you have the legal right to do so. By representing the estate, the result will put thousands of extra dollars into the pockets of the beneficiaries.

Hire A People’s Choice to Help Probate A Will or Administer an Estate

If your loved one has recently passed away, and you need legal help in probating the estate, contact us. We can easily help you maneuver through the California probate process without having to hire a lawyer. We provide all necessary probate legal document preparation services and help you manage the probate case from beginning to end.  We can help you file probate if the decedent resided in California. We also can help with ancillary probate matters, estates of decedents who owned real property in California but did not live in California.  For low-cost flat fee help preparing all documents needed to probate your loved one’s estate, call 1-800-747-2780 to speak with one of our experience probate assistants.

Get help with your California legal documents today!

A People’s Choice can save you hundreds of dollars by preparing your legal documents instead of an expensive attorney!

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By |2018-01-18T15:47:38+00:00April 25th, 2015|Estate Planning|0 Comments

About the Author:

Sandra M. McCarthy, founder of A People’s Choice Inc., has worked exclusively in the legal field since 1976. She served as the 2004-2005 President of CALDA (California Association of Legal Document Assistants). She obtained a Paralegal Certificate from the University of California, Santa Barbara. During her career in the legal field, she has worked as a freelance paralegal, law office manager and paralegal studies teacher, and has co-authored numerous legal publications and written hundreds of self-help legal articles. As a registered Legal Document Assistant, Sandy is dedicated to providing affordable, low-cost, self-help document preparation services for California consumers in all 58 counties.

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