Probate is known for being a lengthy, potentially costly process, especially if decedents did not leave behind a valid or up-to-date will. While many people generally know these facts, there are a lot of misconceptions about probate out there. And believing the myths about probate can mislead people into not putting the proper estate plans in place now or to inadvertently compromising their interests in probate later.
To help you avoid doing either of these things, below we will reveal the facts behind some common probate myths.
The Facts about California Probate: What You Should Know
Myth 1 – I have a will, so my surviving loved ones will not need to deal with probate later.
Fact – Wrong! While having a will is certainly an important aspect of estate planning, that alone will not necessarily be sufficient to helping your loved ones avoid or bypass probate later upon your death. This is because the assets named in the will are generally going to have to pass through probate if they are not held by a trust or if they do not already have beneficiary designations (such as transfer upon death or payable upon death designations).
So, if you are serious about helping your loved ones avoid probate in the future, you are likely going to need more than a will in place – and consulting with an attorney to find out what additional steps you may need to take now will be crucial.
Myth 2 – Probate is only complicated for higher valued estates.
Fact – This is not necessarily true. In fact, although probate can be very complicated for estates with a greater amount of assets, this process can still be fairly complex for lower valued estates if or when:
- There are questions or issues with the validity of a will.
- No will was left behind.
- An estate has significant creditors or debts.
- An estate holds assets in different states or countries.
The bottom line here is that you cannot assume that probate will be “easy” just because an estate may not have substantial assets. California probate involves a lot of issues and steps, so it can be just as complicated for smaller estates as it ends up being for bigger estates.
Myth 3 – I only need a lawyer in probate if someone contests the will.
Fact – This is also not necessarily true, especially for personal representatives and beneficiaries who want to ensure their interests are fully protected as they move through the California probate process. In fact, while having an attorney’s guidance and representation can be pivotal when will contests are raised, as we’ve mentioned above, probate can be complex for a number of reasons.
This is because the process involves inventorying an estate, notifying creditors of the death, settling the debts of an estate and taking care of other issues before any of the assets of the estate are distributed to the designated beneficiaries.
Consequently, if you have never been through probate before, retaining an experienced lawyer to represent you – regardless of whether you are a personal representative or a beneficiary – can be essential to making sure that your interests are not compromised in probate and that you are able to get through the process as favorably and efficiently as possible.
Contact San Fernando & Santa Clarita Probate Attorney at the Law Offices of Darrell C. Harriman
Do you need help with California probate? If so, a trusted Santa Clarita probate attorney at the Law Offices of Darrell C. Harriman is ready to help you.
To discuss your legal needs today, contact our firm by calling (818) 946-0412 or by filling out the contact form on this page.
From our offices based in North Hills, we provide the highest quality legal services to our clients throughout the San Fernando Valley, Simi Valley, Santa Clarita and the greater Los Angeles area.