How to Probate an Estate in California

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9781413309379: How to Probate an Estate in California
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Covers the entire California probate process, from deciphering a will to tackling taxes.

If you need to wrap up the affairs of a deceased family member or friend in California, you can save attorney fees by handling the probate process yourself.

How to Probate an Estate in California is the only book that provides all the forms, tips and step-by-step instructions you'll need to settle a loved one's estate. You may even be able to handle the whole process by mail, without setting foot in the courthouse.

Learn how to:

  • read a will
  • determine who inherits property if there is no will
  • handle probate paperwork
  • collect life insurance and other benefits
  • transfer community property to a surviving spouse or domestic partner
  • pay bills and taxes
  • distribute property left through trusts

    Even if you hire a lawyer to do the probate paperwork, this book will help you understand the process so that you can make informed decisions and communicate intelligently with the attorney about the estate. Why spend over $13,000 on a lawyer to probate a $500,000 estate, when you can do almost all of it on your own?

    The 20th edition is completely updated with current probate and tax information.

    LIST OF FORMS
    Judicial Council Forms
    DE-111 Petition for Probate
    DE-120 Notice of Hearing
    DE-121 Notice of Petition to Administer Estate
    DE-121 (MA) Attachment to Notice of Petition to Administer Estate
    DE-131 Proof of Subscribing Witness
    DE-135 Proof of Holographic Instrument
    DE-140 Order for Probate
    DE-147 Duties and Liabilities of Personal Representative
    DE-147S Confidential Supplement to Duties and Liabilities of Personal Representative
    DE-150 Letters
    DE-157 Notice of Administration to Creditors
    DE-160 Inventory and Appraisal
    DE-161 Inventory and Appraisal Attachment
    DE-165 Notice of Proposed Action
    DE-174 Allowance or Rejection of Creditor's Claim
    DE-221 Spousal or Domestic Partner Property Petition
    DE-226 Spousal or Domestic Partner Property Order
    DE-270 Ex Parte Petition for Authority to Sell Securities and Order
    DE-295 Ex Parte Petition for Final Discharge and Order
    DE-305 Affidavit re Real Property of Small Value ($20,000 or Less)
    DE-310 Petition to Determine Succession to Real Property (Estates of $100,000 or Less)
    DE-315 Order Determining Succession to Real Property

    Non-Judicial Council Forms
    Declaration Regarding Property Passing to Decedent's Surviving Spouse or Registered Domestic Partner Under Probate Code 13500
    Who Inherits Under the Will?
    Schedule of Assets
    Notification by Trustee
    Affidavit -- Death of Joint Tenant
    Affidavit -- Death of Trustee
    Affidavit -- Death of Spouse
    Affidavit -- Death of Domestic Partner
    Affidavit -- Death of Spouse or Domestic Partner -- Survivorship Community Property
    Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property Under California
    Probate Code 13100-13106
    Deed to Real Property
    Probate Case Cover Sheet -- Certificate of Grounds for Assignment to District (L.A. County)
    Application and Order Appointing Probate Referee (L.A. County)
    Change in Ownership Statement (Death of Real Property Owner) (L.A. County)
    Affidavit or Declaration for Final Discharge and Order (L.A. County)
    Preliminary Change of Ownership Report
  • "synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

    About the Author:

    Julia Nissley was Probate Administrator with the Los Angeles law firm of Silverberg, Rosen, Leon and Behr for many years. She is an honors graduate of the Attorney Assistant Training Program in Probate Administration at the University of California--Los Angeles School of Law, and a member of the California Association of Legal Document Assistants. Julia is a native Californian and enjoys playing tennis and riding trains with her husband, Ron. The author of How to Probate an Estate in California, Julia now operates her own form preparation service under the name Probate Direct, assisting consumers with all kinds of probate paperwork through the mail or in person.

    Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

    What Is Probate?

    Many people aren't sure what the term "probate" really means. They think of it only as some long, drawn out, and costly legal formality surrounding a deceased person's affairs. Technically, probate means "proving the will" through a probate court proceeding. A generation ago, virtually every estate had to be reviewed by a judge before it could pass to those who would inherit it. Today there are several ways to transfer property at death, some of which don't require formal court proceedings, so the term is now often used broadly to describe the entire process by which an estate is settled and distributed.

    For example, a surviving spouse or domestic partner may receive property outright from the deceased spouse or partner without any probate proceedings at all. Joint tenancy property also escapes the need for formal probate, as does property left in a living (inter vivos) trust and property in a pay-on-death bank account (Totten trust). If an estate consists of property worth less than $100,000, it, too, can be transferred outside of formal probate. Fortunately, the paperwork necessary to actually transfer property to its new owners in the foregoing situations is neither time-consuming nor difficult. We discuss all of these procedures, as well as how to do a formal probate court proceeding.

    There is one thing you should understand at the outset: The person who settles an estate usually doesn't have much choice as to which property transfer method to use. That is, whether you are required to use a formal probate or a simpler method to transfer property at death depends on how much (or little) planning the decedent (deceased person) did before death to avoid probate. This is discussed in detail as we go along.

    Both formal probate and some of the other nonprobate procedures involve filing papers at a court clerk's office, usually in the county where the decedent resided at the time of death. In larger counties, going to the main courthouse and other government offices in person can be an ordeal. To avoid this, you may settle most simple estates entirely by mail, even if a formal probate court proceeding is required. In other words, most probate matters don't require that you appear in court before a judge. In fact, settling an estate by mail is now the norm in many law offices. We will show you how to do this as we go along.

    What Is Involved in Settling an Estate?

    Generally, settling an estate is a continuing process which:

    determines what property is owned by the decedent
    pays the decedent's debts and taxes, if any, and
    distributes all property that is left to the appropriate beneficiaries.

    When a person dies, she may own several categories of assets. Among these might be household belongings, bank and money market accounts, vehicles, mutual funds, stocks, business interests, and insurance policies, as well as real property. All property owned by the decedent at the time of his or her death, no matter what kind, is called his or her "estate."

    To get this property out of the name of the decedent and into the names of the people who inherit it requires a legal bridge. There are several types of legal procedures or bridges to move different kinds of property to their new owners. Some of these are the equivalent of large suspension bridges that will carry a lot of property while others are of much less use and might be more analogous to a footbridge. Lawyers often use the word "administrate" and call this process "administering an estate." In this book we refer to these procedures collectively as "settling an estate."

    Most of the decedent's estate will be passed to the persons named in his or her will, or, if there is no will, to certain close relatives according to priorities established by state law (called "intestate succession"). However, to repeat, no matter how property is held, it must cross an estate settlement bridge before those entitled to inherit may legally take possession. The formal probate process is but one of these bridges. Some of the other bridges involve community property transfers, clearing title to joint tenancy property, winding up living trusts, and settling very small estates that are exempt from probate. Again, we discuss all of these in detail.

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