Why Probate a Will? 3 Reasons to Do it Now Before it’s Too Late

probate attorney in Orange County

Preparing for the future is one of the most important ways you can care for your loved ones. Creating a solid, valid will makes your final wishes clear and can save them serious time that would otherwise be spent trying to clear up your affairs. If you want to save your loved ones time and stress, consider working with a probate attorney in Orange County

Probate is notorious for taking a long time and resulting in high legal fees. If you set up your estate to avoid probate, your family will have an easier time settling your affairs and making funeral plans.

Here is how you can handle probate concerns with your will. 

What is a Probate?

Probate is a legal process that allows the court to oversee the management of a deceased person's estate. This includes the distribution of assets, payment of debts, and more. Depending on the size of the estate, what it includes, and its overall complexity—the process can take years. 

It has many steps, from first authenticating the will to locating the assets and determining their value. There are options if you wish to avoid this expensive and complex task, such as putting your assets into a trust fund or using retirement and bank accounts to hold your assets. 

Probate laws vary by state and area, which is why it's important to find a local California attorney to handle your case. 

What is a Will?

A will is an estate planning document that records a person's final wishes. It may include everything from burial instructions to gifting property to friends and loved ones. It may even include charitable donations. It can also designate guardianships for your minor children in the case of your death, assign power of attorney to a trusted person, and more.

Wills are designed to provide solid, legally valid instructions for the court and your loved ones to follow. Lawyers can help you draft a will that reflects your intentions clearly and effectively. Involving a lawyer reduces the chances of disputes or confusion later down the line.

A will isn't the only document you need for estate planning, but it's a good start and an essential component for most people.

When Probating a Will is Necessary

If you are new to estate planning and related topics, you may be wondering if probate is always necessary. The answer is that probate is often necessary before heirs can receive their inheritances or access the deceased's accounts to pay off bills.  

Local probate lawyers are generally the best people to answer your unique questions on this topic, but here we'll discuss a few common scenarios.  In most situations, a will must go through probate in order to assess its validity and assign an executor. 

The executor of a will is responsible for making sure that its terms are carried out. This person will often want to hire a probate attorney to make sure everything goes smoothly and that they are interpreting the will correctly.

Assets are Owned Under the Decedent’s Sole Name

Assets owned solely by the decedent will need to go through probate before they can be retitled in the beneficiaries' names. If there are no joint owners and there's no stated beneficiary for payable-on-death accounts, then probate is the solution. 

However, many states offer exceptions for small estates that are under a certain threshold. These can skip probate and instead go through a streamlined alternative. For example, if a house was owned solely by a father, it would need to go to probate before his children can have their names put on the deed.

Assets are Owned as a Tenant in Common

When property titles are shared among multiple people, distributing that property in a will or other estate plan can be tough. Probate steps in to handle this particular issue—the probate process will transfer a property share from the decedent to his heirs. 

However, it's possible to plan ahead for this situation. Placing a property share into a living trust, for example, allows the beneficiaries to skip probate and simply transition into ownership. 

No Designated Beneficiaries

In some situations, people create estate plans and either fail to name beneficiaries, or all their beneficiaries are deceased. 

This is most common when it comes to payable-on-death accounts, such as bank accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies. Account owners are required to name beneficiaries. The probate court will distribute these accounts to the rightful beneficiaries according to local inheritance law.

The Decedent Didn’t Have a Last Will and Testament

When someone dies without a will or other estate planning documents, they are considered intestate. Without any legal documents to follow, the case will go directly to probate court. 

In court, a judge will divide the estate according to local law. The law tends to prioritize spouses and family members, and may not always reflect the wishes of the deceased person. 

Some people choose not to create a will for privacy reasons or to avoid probate. Wills are a matter of public record, and not all families want to publish details about their finances. Instead, they work with a trust attorney in Orange County to create a trust that will distribute their assets to beneficiaries smoothly and without probate.

Prepare Your Will with a Trusted Probate Attorney in Orange County

As you plan for the future, don't neglect estate planning. Working with a trusted attorney means you can plan for your unique financial situation and ensure that your assets are distributed as you want them. 

Creating a will is one of the most important steps you can take. A lawyer who specializes in estates will guide you through the process so you can avoid common pitfalls and make sure your will is clear and easy to carry out. 

Parker Law Offices is your go-to law firm for all estate planning matters. To schedule a free consultation with our probate attorney in Orange County, contact us at 949-867-4818 at Parker Law Offices today!

Maria Parker assists her clients plan for their end of life health care wishes and the ultimate distribution of their wealth after death. She personally experienced the importance of planning at the time her father passed away.

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Estate Planning Attorney in Orange County, CA
Wills & Trusts, Estate & Trust Administration, Probate, and Health Care Power of Attorney
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