Santa Cruz Estate Administration Lawyer
California Probate Lawyer
At the Santa Cruz law firm of Timothy J. Morgan, Attorney at Law, our lawyers represent people who have been named as executors or administrators of a family member's will. As a part of this role, our lawyers draft and review probate documents assigning assets and responsibilities. We often serve as a court-appointed probate administrator, acting as a neutral party to expedite the probate process.
Here are answers to some of the questions we most often receive concerning California probate:
Will we need a formal probate administration of the estate?
In most cases, the answer is no. In California, there are broad classes of property that are exempt from probate. The most common are the following:
- Assets held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, such as a house. In this case, the surviving joint tenant succeeds to the interest and generally all that is necessary is to record an affidavit of surviving joint tenant and you have cleared the title.
- Accounts that are payable on death to a named person
- A Trust
- Life insurance policy that names a beneficiary
- An IRA account that names a beneficiary
When a married couple owns all assets as community property, then there is an expedited procedure that avoids probate to transfer to the surviving spouse his or her interest in the deceased spouse's property.
What does probate cost?
In California, the probate code specifies the fee that is payable to the probate lawyer and to the executor or administrator of the estate. The fee is a declining percentage of the estate, based on the value of the estate, not considering any debts. We can help you with a quick calculation of how much probate might cost you.
How will I pay for probate?
Probate costs are paid at the end of administration, out of funds of the estate. You don't have to advance attorney fees.
How long does probate take?
If you have to probate an estate, there is a certain period required for published notice before the administrator or executor can be appointed. Then there is a creditor claim period that has to pass. It takes about one month for the published notice and four months for the creditor claim, so you are looking at a minimum of six months from the time you start a probate to the earliest you could conclude it. The goal of the California legislature is to have probates that don't require a federal estate tax to be filed to be completed within one year and for estates that require an estate tax to be completed within 18 months. If the proceeding is contested, it can take much longer.
Will I have to pay federal estate tax?
In our experience, most estates don't require the paying of the federal estate tax, because the exemption amounts have increased sufficiently to shield most moderate-sized estates. Even if there otherwise would be a federal estate tax liability, it may be advantageous to use of the marital deduction, which will defer any estate taxes until the death of the second spouse.
What is required for a valid will?
If the will is a printed or typewritten document, it has to be signed by the person making the will (called the testator), dated, and signed in the presence of two disinterested witnesses who are of legal age. The document should clearly indicate that it is the testator's will, and the testator has to be of sound mind. It is meets all of these tests, it is a valid will.
If the will is handwritten (a holographic will), then the entirety of it has to be in the testator's handwriting. It can't be partially typed. The handwritten will must be dated and signed at the end, and the testator has to be of sound mind. If it meets all of these tests, it does not need to be witnessed to be a valid will.
Probate and Estate Administration Inquiries
Contact us using the Probate and Estate Administration form.
Avoid expensive probate delays and litigation. Contact an estate administration lawyer at the Santa Cruz law firm of Timothy J. Morgan, Attorney at Law, for sensible legal advice and satisfying results.