Probate is a court process that involves people who can’t legally make decisions about their finances or personal well-being. They include:
- Children, and most minors under the age of 18
- Incapacitated adults, including some with severe psychological disorders or physical ailments
- People who have died but did not create a will or make legal arrangements to avoid probate
Probate for Children
Probate often involves children and their need for guardianship. Courts sometimes order that a person other than a child’s legal parents take custody of the child or manage an inherited estate—in some cases, both. It’s important to understand that there’s a big difference between being appointed a child’s guardian and an estate’s guardian:
- A court may appoint or approve a guardian when a child’s legal parents cannot be expected to provide for the child’s needs. In general, guardians, are responsible for a child’s care, including their medical needs, emotional growth, and educational obligations.
- A court may appoint or approve a guardian of a child’s estate if they inherit money or assets. Estate guardians typically manage, invest, or otherwise care for a child’s assets until the child turns 18.
Probate for Adults
In California, a court may decide that an adult isn’t fit to make decisions related to their personal finances or well-being. This may occur if an individual suffers from a serious psychological or medical condition or if they’ve reached an age where they’re no longer in possession of their mental faculties.
Often, probate for adults is initiated by a relative—a spouse, grown-up child, parent, or sibling. Sometimes the courts allow other categories of people to apply for a probate conservatorship.
California permits two types of conservatorships. Similar to minor guardianships, a conservator may care for an adult who cannot physically care for himself, or the conservator may handle the financial aspects of the adult’s estate. That does not mean, however, that the conservator is entitled to control an estate and its assets.
Probate for Those Who Died Without a Will
Not everyone creates a will, and some wills aren’t valid. Thus, it’s possible your family members will have to initiate or undergo probate proceedings to determine:
- If a will is valid or whether a will actually exists
- Who, exactly, are beneficiaries of the will
- How much cited properties are worth and how they will be equitably divided
- How and when assets should be distributed
Other conditions exist, too. For instance, California residents don’t need to go through probate if they’re dealing with properties worth under $166,250. However, they’ll have to go to court if an estate or the asset value exceeds that amount, even if a will made provisions meant to avoid or circumvent probate.
How to Handle Probate
Every state has its own rules on how to initiate and settle different types of probate cases. In California, these processes tend to be fairly straightforward. However, some cases can be expensive and time-consuming, despite California’s relatively streamlined system. The courts often charge money to simply initiate procedures or file certain documents, and the process can become complicated when someone else challenges probate. In situations like these, it’s best to hire an estate planning attorney who can explain the system, challenge any unexpected difficulties, and explain California’s fee structure for probate cases and filings.
Do You Need Legal Help Regarding Probate Issues In California?
If a loved one died without a will and you need legal assistance regarding the probate process you should be speak with an experienced probate attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our office directly at 800.756.5596 to claim your space at one of our free, informative seminars. Your attendance will qualify you for a discount for our probate services. We proudly serve clients throughout California with offices in Torrance, Newport Beach, Orange, Woodland Hills and Pasadena.