The loss of a loved one is typically followed by a period of grief and other heightened emotions. The last thing on your mind if you find yourself grieving the loss of someone close to you is probably the practical and legal ramifications of your loved one’s death. Someone, however, must be in charge of overseeing the probate of the individual’s estate. If you were named as the Executor of the estate in the decedent’s Last Will and Testament, your loved one has put you in charge of the administration of his/her estate. Retaining the services of an experienced and qualified probate attorney to assist you throughout the probate of the estate is certainly advisable. To get you started though, the estate planning attorneys at Northern California Center for Estate Planning & Elder Law have put together the following Colfax, California probate resources.
A Probate Overview for the Beginner
Probate is the legal process that is typically required after someone dies. Probate serves several important functions, including providing a legal framework within which the decedent’s assets are transferred to the new owners as well as ensuring that all creditors of the estate, including tax authorities, are paid. The individual who oversees the probate of an estate is referred to as the Executor and is appointed by the decedent if a Last Will and Testament was executed prior to death. If the decedent died intestate, or without a Will, any competent adult may volunteer to be the Administrator and oversee the probate of the estate. The duties and responsibilities of an Executor and Administrator are similar and the generic term “Personal Representative” is frequently used to refer to either someone appointed in a Will or who volunteered for the position. In a testate estate, the terms of the Will dictate how the estate assets are distributed whereas in an intestate estate the California intestate succession laws govern the distribution of the decedent’s estate assets.
The probate process can be a lengthy and complex process that is difficult to navigate under the best of circumstances. If you recently lost someone close to you, it can be even more difficult to focus on the legal and financial issues that typically crop up during the probate of an estate. It is for this reason, and many others, that most PRs choose to retain the services of an experienced and qualified probate attorney to assist them during the probate process.
Before moving forward, you will need to determine which type of probate is required. If the estate is modest it may qualify for an alternative to formal probate.
The probate of an estate is typically initiated in the county in which the decedent was a resident at the time of death. If your loved one lived in Colfax, California, that means you will open the probate of the estate in the Placer County Probate Court.
Retaining an Attorney
Although proceeding on your own is unwise, you may be equally intimidated by the prospect of finding an attorney to assist you. One place to start is with the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys website. The AAEPA is a national organization of attorneys who have chosen to focus their practice on legal issues related to wills, trusts, and estates. Membership in the AAEPA signifies that an attorney has proven experience in the areas of estate planning and/or elder law.
Resources for the Personal Representative
As the Personal Representative of the estate you will have numerous duties and responsibilities throughout the probate process. To get the probate process started you will need to file the appropriate petition with the Placer Probate Court. Along with the petition you will also need to submit the decedent’s original Last Will and Testament and a certified copy of the decedent’s death certificate. As the Personal Representative (PR) you are responsible for ensuring that all real property owned by the decedent is accounted for during probate. You are also responsible for publishing notice of the probate in a local newspaper to notify unknown creditors that probate is underway. Certain local newspapers publishe legal notices. Finally, because every estate is potentially subject to federal gift and estate taxes, you will need to be familiar with how to calculate the tax and how to prepare the tax return. If the estate does owe federal gift and estate taxes, that tax debt must be paid in full before assets can be transferred out of the estate to beneficiaries or heirs of the estate.
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding the probate of an estate in Colfax, California, contact us at the Northern California Center for Estate Planning & Elder Law today by calling (916)-437-3500 or by filling out our online contact form.