How to Cope with the Probate Process

If one of your family members has passed on, you may find yourself heading towards probate court. At first blush, the California probate process can seem to be daunting. Indeed, if you are like most people, you are thinking to yourself: “I just lost a loved one, and now I have to deal with this, with probate.”

The reality is that the state of California has taken steps to make the probate process as easy as possible for most people. With that said, there are a smaller number of estates that do require a more complex probate process. There are some specific strategies you can employ to make the probate process as easy as possible. For example, California provides all forms needed to used in the probate process online at www.courts.ca.gov/forms.

Retain a Skilled, Experienced, Compassionate Probate Attorney

If you face the prospect of a more complicated probate process after the death of a family member, you are best served by retaining the services of an experienced California probate attorney. Indeed, in retaining a capable probate lawyer represents one of the most important steps you can take to cope with the probate process and settling your loved one’s estate.

The first step in the process of retaining a probate lawyer is to schedule what is known as known as an initial consultation. A number of matters are addressed at an initial consultation with a seasoned probate attorney:

  • Evaluation of the case provided by legal counsel
  • Information about the specifics of the California probate process
  • Probate attorney provides answers to your questions

Local bar associations maintain directories of attorneys who practice in specific areas of the law, including estate and probate lawyers.

Los Angeles County Bar Association

1055 West 7th Street
Suite 2700
Los Angeles, California 90017-2577

(213) 627-2727

www.lacba.org

Orange County Bar Association

P.O. Box 6130,
Newport Beach, California 92658

www.ocbar.org

Riverside County Bar Association

4129 Main Street
Suite 100
Riverside, California 92501

(951) 682-1015

www.riversidecountybar.com

San Bernardino Bar Association

412 East State Street
Redlands, California

(909) 885-1986

www.sbcba.org

Who Pays for a Probate Attorney?

A basic and important question that you likely have is: “Who pays for a probate attorney?” Rest assured that the services of a lawyer on behalf of an estate in probate is not something you personally are responsible to finance. Rather, an attorney retained to deal with probate is paid via the estate itself. Moreover, the state of California has established specific guidelines for when and how much a probate lawyer is paid to handle an estate:

  • 4% of the first $100,000 of the gross value of the probate estate
  • 3% of the next $100,000
  • 2% of the next $800,000
  • 1% of the next $9 million
  • .5% of the next $15 million

How to Cope if You are the Executor or Administrator of an Estate

You do end up with more on your plate if you are named as the executor of an estate in a deceased person’s will, or if the court appoints you to serve as the administrator of an estate in which there is no will. You place yourself in a solid position to cope with the responsibilities of being the executor or administrator of an estate by understanding upfront what you are getting into through such an appointment.

Perhaps the most important element of being an executor or administrator is that you have what legally is known as a fiduciary duty. The legal definition of “fiduciary duty is:

“The highest standard of care.  The person who has a fiduciary duty is called the fiduciary, and the person to whom he owes the duty, is typically referred to as the principal or the beneficiary.”

In layperson’s terms, as the executor or administrator of an estate, you must be:

  • Honest
  • Diligent
  • Efficient
  • Competent

The primary job of an executor or administrator is to oversee and manage the affairs of the estate. The demands of the task depend on the complexity of an estate. As mentioned before, retaining legal counsel is a recommended for more complex estates. A probate attorney works side by side with you to ensure the proper administration and management of an estate in probate.

Southern California Probate Courts

Whether or not you retain legal counsel to assist you in a probate case, you will need to know the location of the probate court in which your loved one’s estate case will be processed. These are the locations of four of the primary county probate courts in Southern California:

Los Angeles County Probate Court:

www.lawcourt.org

Stanley Mosk Courthouse
111 North Hill Street
Los Angeles, California 90012

Michael Antonovich Antelope Valley Courthouse
42011 4th Street West
Lancaster, CA 93534

Orange County Probate Court

www.occourts.org

Central Justice Center
700 Civic Center Drive West
Santa Ana, CA 92701

Riverside County Probate Court:

www.riverside.courts.ca.gov/probate

Banning Justice Center
311 East Ramsey Street
Banning, CA 92220

San Bernardino County Probate Court

www.sb-court.org

Justice Center
246 West Third Street
San Bernardino, CA 92415