Probate. The Court Process.

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If probate is necessary, someone must come forward to start the process. If there’s a will, the executor named in the will should do this. If there’s no will, or the executor is not available, then usually a family member asks the court to be appointed as the “administrator” of the estate.

The executor’s job will probably last no less than a year. The executor files the will, along with a document called a “Petition for Probate” and many other forms to get the process started.  When everything is in order to the judge’s liking, the court issues “Letters Testamentary” or “Letters of Administration,” appointing an executor and granting that person authority over estate assets.

Once the executor has this authority, the executor must gather the decedent’s assets, verify valid creditors of the estate, apply for a taxpayer ID number for the estate, and open an estate bank account. The executor will need to compile, and file with the court, an inventory and appraisal of all probate property. The probate court appraiser will be assigned to assist in the appraisal of all probate property. Finally, when all bills and taxes have been paid, the executor must file another petition and ask the court to close the estate. That’s when the executor can finally distribute all the estate assets to the people who inherit them.

Probate Is Expensive

California is one of the few states that allows probate fees based upon the percentage of the value of the assets subject to the probate. The percentage fees are as follows:

  • 4% of the first $100,000 of the gross value
  • 3% of the next $100,000
  • 2% of the next $800,000
  • 1% of the next $9 million

So, for example, if a probate estate included a house and bank accounts valued at $600,000.00, total, the attorney’s fee and executor fee would be $15,000.00, each ($30,000.00 not including filing fees). What if there’s still $200,000 to pay on the mortgage, reducing the equity in the house to $200,000? The attorney’s fee and executor fee would still be $15,000, each. Probate fees are based on the gross amount.

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