The thought of going through the probate process here in Santa Barbara county can strike fear in the hearts of most people, and with good reason. The time it takes is long and grueling, and the paperwork is overwhelming. The details of probate vary from state to state, so the process looks different depending on where the deceased owns property. To add to the confusion, separate proceedings are necessary if the deceased has property in more than one state.
The process of probate is used to ensure that an individual's estate is being administered in a way that conforms to probate laws. This is why we recommend that people work with a qualified probate lawyer from their local community. He or she will make sure that the rules are being followed and free them from the headaches associated with the paperwork (A.K.A. “red tape”).
Many of those who engage in estate planning do their best to avoid probate by creating a living trust. This helps to set out their wishes in advance and allows for a trustee to follow through on those wishes when the time comes. Those who only have a will and those who have not planned their estates at all will have their assets go into probate.
Another reason to consider creating a trust is that probate is a public affair. Because the will or estate goes through the court system, the information that arises is available to the public. While this may not be a major concern for some people, others prefer to keep matters of money, property, and inheritance private. It is entirely possible to maintain confidentiality with a trust.
Finally, if you are involved with an estate that is going into probate, it is important to be aware that it can be a lengthy process. An accounting must be done of all the assets, creditors must be contacted regarding any money owed, and assets may need to be sold off. All of these things take time.
A good probate lawyer will have experience with this process making it smoother. He or she will also understand the concerns of those involved and will keep clients up to date and informed on the status of their case. While a will and trust lawyer is a great contact point during estate planning, a probate lawyer may very well be needed as the estate is actually being administered.
At Santa Barbara Estate Planning & Elder Law, we are here to assist you with your probate and estate administration needs. It is our goal to make navigating the complicated world of probate as easy as possible and help you carry out the wishes of your deceased loved one. If you have specific questions or you are not sure how to get started with the probate process, please give our office a call at (805) 946-1550 and ask to schedule a consultation.