The probate process is time-consuming and can be very confusing due to its complex rules, paperwork, and deadlines. California probates last for 9 to 12 months on average, depending on the complexity of the estate and the family dynamics involved. At the Hedtke Law Firm, we understand the loss of a loved one is already difficult, without adding legal burdens to it. We offer compassionate guidance on your duties as a personal representative, and we will take care of the legal procedures for you and make all court appearances on your behalf.
Probate isn’t always required. The law only requires probate if the gross value of assets subject to probate exceeds a minimum amount set by law (currently $150,000). Some assets are not subject to probate, such as those held in a trust, joint tenancy property, and life insurance proceeds, to name a few. When the value of the probate estate is less than $150,000, formal probate can be avoided and simplified procedures may be used to transfer the assets. These are sometimes referred to as a “summary probate” or “small estate affidavit” procedures. However, in some situations, it may still be advisable to go through probate even if it’s not required. We can help you determine whether probate is required, and the pros and cons of using probate as a non-mandatory alternative.
What happens if there’s no will? When there is a valid will, the probate court will follow its instructions, making sure the estate is distributed according to the testator’s intent. Without a will, the court will follow California’s intestacy laws. These are the default rules that allocate property based on familial relationships. The closer the relationship according to the family tree, the larger the share of the estate. If you open probate for a non-relative who died without close family members living, you must look for heirs further out along the family tree. If no living heirs can be located and no claims are made to the estate, the property will “escheat” to the state of California. If you’re dealing with the loss of someone who left no will or trust, we can help you settle the estate in the best manner possible under intestate succession.