Probate is a heavily procedure based legal process that is very costly, and usually takes at least six months to a year to complete.

That means lots and lots of legal forms to prepare, rigid deadlines that must be strictly adhered to and court supervision and scrutiny during the entire process.

It’s important to know that the entire cost of probate can be avoided with proper estate planning.

We at People’s Legal Docs, Inc. can help you with living trusts, wills and other legal documents so you don’t pass this completely avoidable expense on to the beneficiaries of your estate. It might be helpful to ask your parents if they have an estate plan. We will be glad to offer you a discounted rate for multiple estate plans. We can also arrange gift certificates. We make the process easy and stress-free!

Or call us for an appointment at (415) 453-5952

What is Probate?

Source: Nolo Press

Probate is a legal process that takes place after someone dies. It includes:

  • proving in court that a deceased person’s will is valid (usually a routine matter)
  • identifying and inventorying the deceased person’s property
  • having the property appraised
  • paying debts and taxes, and
  • distributing the remaining property as the will (or state law, if there’s no will) directs.

Typically, probate involves paperwork and court appearances by lawyers. The lawyers and court fees are paid from estate property, which would otherwise go to the people who inherit the deceased person’s property.

Probate usually works like this: After your death, the person you named in your will as executor — or, if you die without a will, the person appointed by a judge — files papers in the local probate court. The executor proves the validity of your will and presents the court with lists of your property, your debts, and who is to inherit what you’ve left. Then, relatives and creditors are officially notified of your death.

Your executor must find, secure, and manage your assets during the probate process, which commonly takes a few months to a year. Depending on the contents of your will, and on the amount of your debts, the executor may have to decide whether or not to sell your real estate, securities, or other property. For example, if your will makes a number of cash bequests but your estate consists mostly of valuable artwork, your collection might have to be appraised and sold to produce cash. Or, if you have many outstanding debts, your executor might have to sell some of your property to pay them.

In most states, immediate family members may ask the court to release short-term support funds while the probate proceedings lumber on. Then, eventually, the court will grant your executor permission to pay your debts and taxes and divide the rest among the people or organizations named in your will. Finally, your property will be transferred to its new owners.

There is an important privacy issue you should be aware of in probate. If you rely on only using a will to distribute your assets to your beneficiaries, your information will be made public. All of your documents that are submitted to the probate court, including your will and inventories of your assets and debts, become a matter of public record. This is a big privacy concern for a lot of people. Living trusts remain private, and also allows you to avoid probate.

Kerry Spence