San Diego Probate: the Ins and Outs

San Diego ProbateSan Diego Probate

What happens to someone’s assets when they die? Often, the assets will need to pass through probate. A California estate with assets of $150,000 or real property worth more than $20,000 will most likely need to go through the probate system.

If the decedent had a Will, then the executor of the Will files a probate with the court. However, if the decedent died intestate, (without a Will), the court will usually appoint an administrator who takes on the role of the executor. The main point is that a San Diego probate occurs with or without a Will.

The probate of an estate in San Diego takes place at the Central Division Probate Court located at 1409 Fourth Avenue, San Diego CA 92101. Even if you have a North County San Diego Probate, the probate will still take place downtown.

The actual probate process entails proving the validity of a Will (if there is a Will), appointing an executor or administrator, inventorying the estate property, appraising the estate property, alerting and paying creditors, paying taxes, and distributing the remaining property as put forth in the decedent’s will or in accordance with state law if the decedent died intestate.

Probate is a long, drawn out process that takes between nine and eighteen months. Some more complicated estates can take years, especially when there is a probate litigation involved. In order to move the probate process along as quick as possible, it is important that you seek out the counsel of an experienced San Diego probate lawyer, such as at the Law Offices of Jack B. Friedell.

Probate is public. Notice of the petition for probate is sent to all named beneficiaries of the Will and to anyone who would have received had the decedent died without a Will. In addition to virtually every family member receiving notice, the court documents are open to the public—meaning anyone can see what the assets are and where the assets are going.

If the decedent died without a Will in San Diego, the assets in the estate pass according to California’s intestate succession rules, governed by Probate Code § 6400. Essentially, when there is no Will in California, the deceased’s assets pass to any children, then parents, and on and on down the family tree.

Some ways to avoid probate in San Diego: 1. Prepare and fund a living trust. 2. Joint tenancy 3. Payable on death accounts. 4. Beneficiary designations on accounts such as life insurance, retirement accounts and IRAs.

There is also a more streamlined court supervised process for spouses and domestic partners in San Diego called a Spousal Property Petition.

Probate can be very expensive. Attorney fees are set by statute (CPC §10800) and are determined based on the value of the probate estate: 4% of the first $100,000; 3% of the next $100,000; 2% of the next $800,000; 1% of the next $9,000,000; ½% of the next $15,000,000; the court will assign a reasonable amount on estates valued above $25,000,000. There are often additional fees from appraisers and CPAs. All told, a San Diego probate can run around five to six percent of the total value of the estate.

To consult with an experienced San Diego Probate attorney who can advise and guide you through the probate of an estate in California, or for any other questions regarding estate planning in San Diego, please contact the Law Offices of Jack B. Friedell today.

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Jack Friedell

Author Jack Friedell

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