When someone passes away without a trust in place, the estate often ends up in probate court where their assets are supervised by the state probate court. In California, fees are set by statute in the California Probate Code and are among the highest in the country. The process of having an estate pass through probate is often expensive, time-consuming, highly public and made even more frustrating and difficult by the grief that accompanies losing a loved one.
If the deceased person had a Will, the court determines whether it is valid. If the Will is held valid, the court names the executor designated in the Will. The executor identifies and gathers all of the deceased person’s assets from which debts, taxes and administration expenses are paid. Assets are then distributed to the beneficiaries according to the instructions of the Will.
If the deceased person did not have a Will, the court will name an administrator who has the same duties as an executor. The court applies California intestacy laws to determine which heirs receive the deceased person’s assets.
Cost of Probate
The cost of probate depends on the value of a deceased person’s estate. In California, probate fees are determined by a statutory structure, which means that they are mandatory and cannot be changed by the court. For example, for an estate valued at $100,000, the probate fees would be over $4,000. For a $500,000 estate, the probate fees would be over $13,000.
The good news is that probate can be avoided altogether. Estate planning tools, such as a living trust, allow your estate to avoid probate. We encourage you to contact us to learn more about the different available options.