When people pass away with just a will, or no estate plan at all, their families have to put the estate through a process called “probate.” Probate is a court-managed proceeding where assets are retitled and distributed according to the will or the law of intestacy (when someone passes away without a will). While most of our clients set up their estate via a living trust, which avoids this process entirely, many estates have to go through probate.

We are often asked to guide families through the probate process and we meet a lot of new clients for the first time helping them settle the estate of recently deceased family members. (These families often choose to do comprehensive planning with our firm after having gone through the process once with a loved one.)

Perhaps you are wondering what is involved in probating an estate? While every probate is different, we can provide you with a partial list of the responsibilities involved in “typical” probate.

  • Locate and file the decedent's will (if he or she had one) with the local court
  • File necessary probate documents with the court
  • Locate, inventory, custody, close and transfer personal assets and accounts
  • Appraise and determine the value of all assets
  • Ascertain, and then notify, all known creditors of the estate
  • Make payments to creditors, discharge the decedent's obligations, and obtain creditor releases
  • Process and obtain life insurance death benefits, if any
  • Secure the decedent's residence and tangible personal property
  • File tax returns (federal and California) and make appropriate tax elections
  • Pay estate taxes and final personal income taxes, if any
  • Obtain tax releases and closing letters from the IRS, local courts, and state taxing authorities
  • Make specific bequests, together with partial and final distributions, to beneficiaries
  • Provide detailed accounting to beneficiaries and the local court

As you can imagine, accomplishing all of this takes an enormous amount of time and can be extremely frustrating. When you factor in the grief that comes with the loss of a loved one, the process can seem overwhelming.

We can help you navigate the probate process and settle the estate as quickly and economically as possible. We will lift the burden off your shoulders, so you can focus on what is most important—coming to terms with your loss and preparing to move on with your life. Contact us today to schedule a personal meeting.

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Santa Barbara Estate Planning & Elder Law is committed to answering your questions about Elder Law, Medi-Cal Planning, VA Benefits, Special Needs Planning, Estate Planning, Conservatorships, Probate/Trust Administration in California.

We'll gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.