When someone passes away and they’ve left behind a will or no plan at all (called dying intestate), your estate must go through a process called probate. Probating a will is essentially the authorization and processing of a will, but it’s more complicated than that. In fact, probate in the state of California can take up to a full year or longer from the time the will is filed. That’s a long time for an estate to remain in limbo.
Another problem with the probate process is that it’s not free. In fact, it can be very expensive. Probate fees are strictly set by code, and are based on the actual value of the assets in question, regardless of the amount of equity in the assets. For instance, a $400,000 home with a mortgage of $250,000 might only have $150,000 in equity, but it will be assessed at the full value ($400,000), not at the equity level.
Costs are also increased by the fact that all assessments are made on the estate’s gross value, not net value. That is, it’s assessed based on its pre-tax value, not the value after taxes. This can significantly increase the cost of probate for any estate.
There are several surprises in store for those going through the probate process, including the fact that probate is open to the public, and anyone with standing can contest the will. It’s uncomfortable being under public scrutiny during such a time and with such sensitive information, and it can be incredibly frustrating to have the processing of a will held up by seemingly frivolous contestations by those with little claim to the estate.
The probate process is even difficult for surviving spouses, who can sometimes be forced to apply to the probate court for funds to live on, drawn from assets that actually belong to them. Cross Law can minimize your family’s exposure to this time consuming, frustrating, humiliating process. We act as probate attorneys throughout the Bay Area, and will help to facilitate a speedy conclusion to probate, while also making sure your assets go where you decide. In fact, we might be able to help you avoid the spectacle of probate altogether with proper estate planning. Contact us today to learn more.