A San Diego probate attorney or probate lawyer (also known as an “estate attorney”, “estate lawyer,” or “estate planning lawyer”) guides Executors and Administrators during the probate process. Sometimes, a beneficiary may hire a San Diego probate lawyer for guidance on his or her legal rights during the probate process.
What is probate?
If an individual dies, owning assets in his name, the estate must be probated. Probate is a court supervised process of validating the will; appointing an executor; locating, protecting, and valuing the decedent’s assets; paying final bills and applicable taxes; and, upon approval of the court, distributing assets to beneficiaries.
The Probate Attorney Guides the Executor during the San Diego, California Probate Process
- The Executor (or “Administrator,” if there is no will) is appointed by the probate court, granting him the authority to take all actions necessary to settle the estate. If things go smoothly, the probate lawyer will see to it that the executor never has to go to the courthouse.
- The probate attorney helps the Executor locate, protect, and value all of the decedent’s assets such as real estate, investment accounts, bank accounts, life insurance, personal property, and any other property the decedent owned, had a right to claim, or controlled at his death. The date of death value must be obtained through financial statements or appraisals, as appropriate.
- The probate lawyer helps the Executor locate creditors and notify them of the death. Known creditors must receive actual notice by mail; unknown creditors receive notice by publishing a notice in a local newspaper.
- The probate attorney assists the Executor in determining the validity of all final bills claims against the decedent and the estate.
- The San Diego probate lawyer helps the Executor and the accountant prepare and file the decedent’s final income tax return as well as the federal estate tax return, if required. If the estate earns income during its settlement, an estate income tax return must be filed as well.
- Once the court has approved the actions of the executor, the Executor must distribute the assets to the estate’s beneficiaries. The probate attorney helps the Executor by preparing an order for distribution that titles the assets into the names of the beneficiaries.
- Throughout the probate process, the estate attorney helps the Executor to make any appropriate filings with the probate court and deals with any issues that arise. For example, there may be instances where an outsider holds an asset that belongs to the estate and won’t return it, or disputes over claims creditors make.
Do I need a probate attorney?
Legally, as Executor, you have the right to probate the estate by yourself. In practicality, this may prove to be difficult as there are many intricate legal procedures in the probate process. In addition, it is likely in your best interest as Executor or Administrator to hire a San Diego probate lawyer because if you make a mistake, you can be held personally liable by the beneficiaries. If you have any questions, please feel free to call our office at 858-792-5988 for a free consultation.