California Probate

California probate is a simple concept, but that doesn’t stop it from stirring up a great deal of trouble in families. The heirs to the estate of the acclaimed singer Prince can attest to that. He died without a will, so his assets are going through a lengthy process laid out by intestate law in his state of Minnesota. And that process is still tied up in California probate court, even though Prince died in 2016.

Probate refers to the legal process of administering someone’s estate when they die—that means cash, cars, real estate, retirement accounts, investments, and anything else of value the deceased owned. Determining the value is not as easy as it sounds; in Prince’s case, the estimates ranged between $150 million to over $300 million. Once the value is determined,  though, the estate administrator is responsible for settling all debts. The rest is distributed among the heirs as outlined in the person’s will.

You can see how much easier probate is if there is a will that can be quickly authenticated upon death. This saves time and steep probate costs that tally up when there is no will or there are questions about its validity. Unfortunately, Prince was only 57 when he died. That’s not an age when most people are thinking about wills.

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How to Avoid California Probate

Prince was not unusual in his lack of an estate plan. Some people simply avoid this uncomfortable topic for as long as possible. Others have it on their “to do” list but never seem to get to it.

These are all understandable reasons, but none of this will help your family if you should die unexpectedly. They will have to face the trauma of losing you, which is enough to deal with without then finding out there is no will. And what about the future of any children left behind?

Top Three Ways to Avoid California Probate

It only takes a bit of foresight to arrange things so that you can avoid probate when you die.

  1. Draft a living trust
  2. Designate beneficiaries
  3. Hold property jointly

If Prince had set up a living trust while he was still alive, everyone would have known his wishes all along. The trust would have outlined basics such as who would inherit his estate and how his fortune would be split among them. The trust would have also included a list of his property holdings. If all or some of that property was owned jointly with someone else, there is no question of what inherits; it would be the other owner.

Who Decides in the Absence of a Will or Trust?

Since this happens fairly often, state laws outline probate codes. These codes regulate wills and other estate planning documents, as well as laws that dictate what happens to a person’s possessions after they pass away without a will.

Here are some decisions that need to be made upon death in California:

  • Possessions must be distributed
  • Debts must be paid, even during the probate period
  • Guardianship for minor or handicapped children must be outlined
  • Conservatorships for the elderly must be set up
  • Validity of the will must be determined
  • The probate process itself must be outlined

Which would you prefer: Outlining these plans yourself in a will or leaving the decision making to an impersonal court appointee?

Costs for California Probate

Of course, all of this doesn’t touch on the issue of cost. By leaving a will, not only will the probate process be easier, it will also be much less expensive.

One of the first questions families ask when faced with probate is, “How much will this cost?” If they hire an attorney, California law sets a scale based on the value of the estate as the attorney’s fee. It looks like this:

  • 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
  • .5% of the next $15 million

Prince’s estate might have been as large as $300 million, which equals a big payday for the attorney. But whatever the value of the assets are finally determined to be, families would rather not pay an exorbitant amount in attorney fees—they usually need the money in the estate to pay off debts and plan for the future. In California, there is a more cost-effective way to file a case in probate court and it doesn’t involve hiring an attorney at all.

Alternatives to High-Priced Attorneys

If you’d like to help your loved ones avoid additional confusion and hardship if the worst should happen, you’re in the right place. Thinking ahead can save extraordinary amounts of time and money in court after someone dies.

The goal of companies like A People’s Choice is to help families file in probate court and work through the process as easily as possible. Most court cases involve a lot of paperwork; much of it is filling out forms and filing them in court. You can have an attorney do that and receive hefty bills along the way, or you can work with our legal document assistants at a fraction of the cost.

Along the way, we help you understand the probate process and provide general information about how California probate works and what it costs. We answer all your questions before beginning the process. Check out our online California probate calculator to compare what attorney fees might be with the costs of A People’s Choice.

California probate isn’t pleasant and it sometimes takes a long time. But most people do not have to hire an attorney. The executor of the estate may feel overwhelmed by the task, but having a registered legal document assistant prepare your probate forms can make it easier and save you and your loved ones money in the long run.

Get help with your California probate documents today!

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

Start Your California Probate