The Role of a Probate Attorney in Succession

A probate attorney can assist an executor by offering legal advice, or they can act on the executor’s behalf by initiating probate and overseeing the estate’s administration.

In a typical California succession claim, a probate lawyer could help with any of the following:

Initiating Probate and Overseeing Document Submissions

Probate must be initiated within 30 days of the decedent’s death, after which the court will schedule an initial hearing to review the claim and authenticate the deceased person’s last will and testament. All subsequent processes—from distributing assets to responding to creditor claims—are similarly deadline-driven.

Marshaling and Managing Estate Assets

In California, the deceased person’s probate assets must be accounted for before their estate can be settled. These assets can include the following:

  • Homes and other real properties
  • Motor vehicles
  • Safe deposit boxes
  • Collections
  • Furniture, household goods, and other personal possessions

Outside of protracted estate contests, the most difficult part of succession is often this time-consuming process of marshaling and managing estate assets. Some executors hire attorneys for the sole purpose of cataloging estate assets, which are not always confined to the home and can sometimes be very difficult to locate. 

Paying Creditors

California state law requires that an estate pay its creditors before distributing inheritances to heirs. Some creditor claims are fairly straightforward: if the decedent owes taxes or has outstanding contractual obligations, they must be resolved before probate can progress.

However, other creditor claims can be more difficult to assess. Unscrupulous debt collectors could pressure an executor to pay an account that is no longer legally collectible—they may even insist that the decedent’s family will be financially liable for the deceased person’s medical bills.

Our Los Angeles and Orange County probate lawyer, Phillip J. Kavesh, can help you make sense of creditor claims, honoring those with merit and ensuring that those filed in bad faith are discarded.

Resolving Disputes

Heirs, like creditors, can also delay probate proceedings by challenging the legality of a will or raising questions about seemingly ambiguous language. A probate lawyer can help mediate disagreements between beneficiaries or defend an estate in court if an heir refuses to reconsider an unreasonable request.

Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.