Probate refers to the legal distribution of property after the death of a property owner. It may involve the distribution under the provisions of a will, or, if the decedent died without a will, "intestate" proceedings where the law determines the beneficiaries. Probates can be "formal" or "summary" proceedings. A formal probate may be required for estates with more than $166,250 of "probate property". In a formal probate, an executor or administrator is appointed by the court. This person, under the court’s supervision, collects the property of the deceased. Debts are paid, tax returns are filed as needed, and any taxes due will be paid. Disputes, if any, will be resolved. Ultimately, at the end of the formal probate process, the property is passed on to decedent’s heirs free from any claims of third parties or creditors. Fortunately, people are often eligible for "summary" or abbreviated alternatives to formal probate. In other cases, property that has been inadvertently omitted from a trust can, upon application to the court, be put in the trust to avoid a probate…even after the death of the person who created the trust. An experienced probate attorney will be able to analyze the estate and tell you if you are eligible for any such relief. These "summary proceedings" can save substantial time and expense.

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