• What A Probate Lawyer in California Won't Tell You

What a Probate Lawyer in California Won’t Tell You

Family members often believe that they have to hire a probate lawyer in California to probate their loved one’s estate. Contrary to popular belief, A People’s Choice has helped countless individuals probate their loved one’s estate without a probate lawyer in California. If the decedent did not specifically mandate in their will that an attorney represent the estate (most wills would not have this provision) the estate’s representative can administer the estate without retaining a probate lawyer. Read on to learn more about what a probate lawyer in California won’t tell you and how A People’s Choice can help you.

1. It Does Not Take Years to Probate an Estate

Lawyers often tell their clients that it may take years to probate their loved one’s estate. Unfortunately, many lawyers use “scare tactics” to get people to hire their services.They make it seem difficult, or even impossible, for people to get through a probate proceeding on their own.

The majority of probate proceedings in California are routine and uncomplicated. Beneficiaries are usually in complete agreement, and the estate merely needs to be settled.  Despite this, most attorneys will tell people they cannot successfully complete a California probate proceeding without hiring an attorney. This statement is completely untrue.

It is rare for the probate process to last longer than a year, and often the probate cases we handle are completed within the year. Statistically, an uncontested probate of a small estate in California typically takes an average of seven to nine months to complete. Early estate planning efforts can greatly reduce the property subject to probate and processing time. Probate is usually prolonged in the event a will is contested or the estate’s assets are sold to satisfy debts. If there are no issues with creditors, taxes, or family members contesting the will, however, an estate can be probated in less than one year.

2. The Formal Probate of an Estate Can Be Avoided

Not all estates have to go through the formal probate process. For small estates without real property, an Affidavit for the Collection of Personal Property can be used to probate personal property valued under $150,000. Once the affidavit is complete, it can be provided to the person or institution which has custody of the personal property for the immediate transfer of title/possession.

There are other alternative small estate proceedings for estates with real property. For estates with real property having a value under $50,000 or $150,000 there are two optional simple probate proceedings that can be used to transfer real property. There is also a special probate proceeding for spouses to transfer property held only in the decedent spouse’s name. A spouse can take advantage of filing a Spousal Petition to avoid filing a full probate.

In addition to using these simplified probate alternative proceedings, the following pre-death options can be used to keep both real and personal property from undergoing probate:

  • Payment-on-Death Designations – This is a great tool to transfer bank accounts upon the owner’s death.
  • Transfer-on-Death Deed – Use this tool to transfer real property upon death. 
  • Vehicle Transfer on Death Registration – As the name implies, use this tool to transfer vehicles upon the registered owner’s death. 
  • Joint Tenancy Ownership of Property – Provides for the surviving property owner to inherit the decedent’s property share upon death. 

3. You Don’t Need to Hire a Probate Lawyer in California to Probate an Estate

The bottom line is that a representative of an estate does not have to hire a probate lawyer in California to probate an estate.  In fact, California Probate Code does not require a lawyer be hired to probate an estate. If you do hire a probate lawyer in California, however, be aware you will be paying that lawyer statutory fees based on the gross value of the estate. These statutory fees are quite high and result in a probate lawyer in California being able to collect over $10,000 in fees for even a very modest estate. To calculate how much an attorney would charge to probate your estate, use our convenient probate calculator. This online tool will also identify how much you will save when you use the services of A People’s Choice.

If the beneficiaries of the estate are cooperative, whether the decedent had a will or not, you can easily get through the probate process using the professional non-attorney services of A People’s Choice. If legal complications arise about taxes and debt obligations, you can always consult with a probate lawyer in California for legal advice and guidance on how to proceed. You do not, however, have to hire the lawyer to represent the estate. Handling the probate on your own will save the estate thousands of dollars!

Having a lawyer to represent the estate does not mean that the process will be quicker or have fewer hurdles than when you use the services of A People’s Choice. A client recently shared her personal experience after attending her initial probate hearing. She wrote:

I appeared in Orange County Court yesterday and was granted executor duties. I have to say there were 40 cases. 20 of which were either postponed before even talking to the Judge because of deficiencies in paperwork , etc.. There were 2 petitions granted and one was mine. Yeah for A Peoples Choice….Thank you for the excellent job.

The majority of cases she referred to as being postponed because of deficiencies in paperwork were cases that had an attorney representing the estate!

Now you know what a probate lawyer in California won’t tell you! Contact A People’s Choice for more information about how to probate an estate in California and avoid costly attorney fees.

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By |2018-01-18T15:47:02+00:00March 16th, 2016|Probate|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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