6th Aug 2012
When you are sick, the first thing you do is try home remedies. But when your illness persists, trying to be your own doctor is not a good idea. Go see a doctor. The same goes with legal matters. On simple matters such as starting your own business or closing a real estate deal, you can do the legal stuff yourself. But when it comes to claiming entitlements upon the demise of a benefactor, not having a lawyer may spell the difference whether you get your share of inheritance – or none at all.
When a person passes away, his estate may undergo what is known as a probate. This is a legal process which involves a multitude of sub-processes or steps. As the term says, probate is a legal process. Hence, it is a matter best left to competent attorneys. The sub-processes include ascertaining the validity of the deceased’s will, determining the deceased’s properties and other assets, calling on all creditors and paying them off and (lastly) affirming the veracity of the designated heirs and giving them their rightful share – if there is any.
Assets to be distributed include real estate holdings, pieces of jewelry, antiques and liquid assets such as savings account, certificates of time deposits, stocks and bonds and other investment instruments. After the total value is appraised and ascertained, a part of the estate will be used to pay off creditors. These may also include a host of different personalities like the Federal and state tax agencies, banks, real estate and appliance companies and other creditors. Hopefully, after the creditors have been paid off, there are still assets left so you as an heir can claim your inheritance.
In claiming your share of the inheritance, you have to realize that human nature (otherwise known as greed) can enter the picture. Many others will step into the picture and claim their rightful share. Probate is not an easy process. Go through the probate process without an attorney at your own risk.
If there is no will or trust, the estate will be distributed according to California probate and intestate laws, which state that a person’s estate will be distributed in the following order: spouse. children, parents (if you have no children) and, finally, siblings (if you have no children or parents).
The length of time of a probate will depend on several factors. It usually takes a minimum of 12 months and can take up to two years or even longer for complex cases.
The best way to ensure your probate is done right is to choose your attorney wisely. Not all attorneys are the same! Many lawyers only “dabble” in probate. Choose an attorney with experience who specializes in this type of law.
You don’t have to use the attorney who prepared the Will either! He may not exactly be the expert in probate law that you require. You need to be comfortable and confident with the attorney. Choosing your probate or trust lawyer is one of the most important decisions you will make. If you take the time to look for a competent probate attorney, you will be rewarded with a skillful guide who will help you navigate the probate process more easily.