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What is Probate?

Probate is a court supervised process by which a decedent's estate is administered, whether or not the decedent died with a Will or intestate (without a Will). A personal representative is appointed by the court, notice is given to creditors, the estate is inventoried, debts of the decedent are paid, and the estate is distributed according to the Will, or if no Will, by intestate succession pursuant to California law. In a Probate, all documents filed with the court become public record, and can be accessed by anyone.

What property is subject to Probate?

Any property owned by the decedent, which does not have a designated beneficiary. Any assets held in joint tenancy or which have a beneficiary will not be subject to probate; however the value of those assets may be included in the decedent's estate for estate tax purposes. If the total value of the decedent's cash account is less than $150,000, a small estate affidavit may be used to transfer that account to the beneficiaries.

How long does Probate take?

A Probate can be completed anywhere from nine months to many years, depending upon the complexity of the estate, the number of assets and beneficiaries.

How much does a Probate cost?

Probate fees are paid to both the attorney and the personal representative of the estate. Those fees are determined by the court, but are based on a schedule set out in the Probate Code. Generally, the cost of Probate is between seven (7) and nine (9) percent of the gross value of the estate.

How can I avoid Probate?

To avoid Probate, you should discuss the current value of your assets and circumstances with an estate planning attorney. There are several methods of avoiding Probate, including, living trusts, joint tenancy, and named beneficiaries.

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