File Probate Without an Attorney in California

The purpose of probate it to settle an estate after someone dies. The goal of probate is to settle and pay all of the decedent’s debts and then distribution all remaining property to the heirs and beneficiaries. Often people ask if they can file probate without an attorney in California. To answer this, you first need to understand what probate is. The process of probate includes:

  • proving the validity of the decedent’s will (if there is one).
  • locating, listing and valuing all of the decedent’s property.
  • paying the decedent’s taxes and debts.
  • distributing the decedent’s property as they have outlined in their will or, if there is no will, according to the laws of intestate succession.

As mentioned above, the process of probate is to validate the will of the decedent. Keep in mind, however, that it is quite common for someone to die without a will. However, the first step of the probate is for the court to provide the will is valid. The court will also appoint someone to represent the estate. This person is called the estate representative. The estate representative could be a person nominated as executor of a will, or just someone chosen by the family members to act in this role.  In a nutshell, the estate’s representative’s job is to manage the estate. This includes putting together an inventory of the decedent’s property, having all property appraised by a probate referee, pay all of the decedent’s outstanding estate debts and taxes, and ultimately distribute the remaining property to the decedent’s heirs and beneficiaries.

Pros & Cons to File Probate Without an Attorney

For most personal representatives, the process of probating a will or administrating an estate is reasonably straightforward. In the majority of cases, heirs and beneficiaries are cooperating with each other, and it is merely a matter of going through the multitude of steps required under California law to probate a case. In other words, the process of a California probate is more administrative and requires little to no legal advice or representation. If you need to file probate, whether it be for a smaller estate under $150,000 or an estate that requires full probate, contact our office to help you. This article will help you understand the pros and cons of filing probate without a lawyer in California and how ProbatebyMe.com can help you file a California probate.

The Pros of Filing California Probate On Your Own

Sadly, many lawyers will try to scare you by telling you that filing probate without an attorney is extremely difficult. This is not the case. Our office has helped thousands of people do just that — file probate without a lawyer. More importantly, by doing so, we have helped save them thousands of dollars. Use our convenient online probate calculator to see exactly how much you will save as compared to the statutory fees attorney charge. Needless to say, you will be shocked!

Keep in mind, probate is merely many steps required under California law to get from point A to point B. The California probate process usually takes around 7-10 months to complete, so there are quite a number of steps in the process and a multitude of forms required to complete the process successfully. This is where we can help you.

First, our convenient online interviews allow you to quickly gather all of the necessary information we will need such as information about the assets and property of the estate, the names and addresses of beneficiaries and personal information regarding the decedent to accurately complete the required court forms. Since the California probate process is multi-step, it does takes many months to complete. As a result, many people may feel overwhelmed and think they need to hire an attorney to do it. Yes, there may be situations where it may be in your best interest to hire an attorney, but those are limited circumstances such as if there is a will contest or heirs are arguing amongst themselves. With over 37 years of experience, we have seen that most executors or personal representatives of the estate can, in fact, with our help, efficiently administer an estate or probate a will without having to hire an attorney, Contact us to hear some of the success stories our clients have had.

Why you May Not Want to Hire a California Probate Attorney

As mentioned above, although there are several benefits of probating a will without a lawyer, in some unique situations, it may be recommended, or even necessary, to hire a probate lawyer. For example, sometimes a family member will try to contest the will, alleging that the person who made the will did not have the mental capacity to do so. Another unique situation would be if the decedent had excessive amounts of outstanding debts/taxes that exceeded the estate value. In some of these unique situations, an attorney can provide legal representation to limit the liability of the estate and protect the estate’s assets. Keep in mind, our office has often successfully helped clients oppose written objections to probate petitions, so not every contentious situation may require a person to hire a lawyer immediately. However, in very contested matters, having an experienced lawyer can be beneficial. With this in mind, we have found that in 99% of the cases we handle, the heirs or beneficiaries want to work together to close the estate, so these contested and complicated situations are rare.

The elephant in the room has to do with the fees attorneys are allowed to charge to handle a California probate. Unfortunately, these fees can be substantial, depending on the value of the gross estate. For example,  statutory probate fees allow a probate attorney to collect a fee based on at least 4% of the first $100,000.00, plus 3% of the next $100,000.00 plus 2% of the next $800,000.00 of the gross value of the probate estate. You can quickly calculate the legal fees in any California probate case using our online probate calculator. As you can see, the higher in value the estate is, the more the attorney fees will be. For comparison purposes, the attorney fees for a California estate valued at $300,000 would be $9,000. Keep in mind, this fee does not include additional fees allowed by the court for extraordinary service the attorney may provide. For example, extra services might include services provided to sell a house or other personal property, negotiating with creditors, or different types of services beyond the standard probate steps. In even the most simple of estates, it is not unusual for attorney’s fees to be $10,000 to $15,000.

Fortunately,  in California, the personal representative does not have to hire an attorney to get through the probate process. In fact, often it is in the estate’s best interest not to hire an attorney because it will put more inheritance monies in the pockets of the beneficiaries. Bottom line, this means that as the personal representative of an estate, if you feel comfortable going through the probate process without hiring an attorney, you have the legal right to do so. As mentioned above, by representing the estate, the beneficiaries and heirs will be in line to get a more substantial inheritance!

Why You Should Hire ProbatebyMe.com to File Probate in California

If your loved one has recently passed away, their estate willl most likely need some type of administration. Sometimes, if the decedent had a living will, it is possible to complete the estate administration process by preparing a few different documents and recording them to transfer assets. On the other hand, you may need to file either a small estate proceeding or a full probate. If you need legal help to administer or probate the estate, contact us. Our office has the experience and tools to help you successfully navigate through the California probate process without having to hire an extensive probate lawyer. Not only does our office provide all necessary probate legal document preparation, we actually help you manage the probate case until it is completed. We keep all clients informed where they are in the process , what the next steps are and schedule all required hearings. We can help you file probate if the decedent lived in California. On the other hand,we also can help with ancillary probate matters. An ancillary probate is required when a decedent did not live in California but  owned property in California.  Don’t be scared into unnecessarily hiring a probate attorney. Call us at 800-747-2780 for low-cost, flat fee probate help. We can help you probate your loved one’s estate and have experienced probate assistants available to take your call 7 days a week.

To access our numerous article on probate, visit our parent site at apeopleschoice.com .

Get help with your California Probate today!

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By |2018-04-18T23:55:00-07:00April 14th, 2018|

About the Author:

Sandra M. McCarthy, founder of ProbatebyME.com / A People’s Choice Inc., has worked exclusively in the legal field since 1976. She served as the 2004-2005 President of CALDA (California Association of Legal Document Assistants). She obtained a Paralegal Certificate from the University of California, Santa Barbara. During her career in the legal field, she has worked as a freelance paralegal, law office manager and paralegal studies teacher, and has co-authored numerous legal publications and written hundreds of self-help legal articles. As a registered Legal Document Assistant, Sandy is dedicated to providing affordable, low-cost, self-help document preparation services for California consumers in all 58 counties.
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