The following article will cover:
- Post-death administration in California.
- The process of probate and trust administration.
- Potential issues and solutions in post-death administration.
What Exactly Is Post-Death Administration In California?
Post-death administration involves managing a person’s assets after their passing. The process and the steps taken depend on the type of assets and their value at the time of death. Here are three different scenarios for post-death administration in California:
- For simple cases, such as confirming the beneficiary of a life insurance policy or transferring ownership of jointly owned property, the process may only involve filing a claim form or an affidavit of death. In the case of joint bank accounts, the assets pass automatically to the surviving owner, and a lawyer may not be needed.
- In California, small estates are those with personal property valued at $184,500 or less and real property valued at $50,000 or less. The combined value of both types of assets must not exceed $184,500. This amount is adjusted annually for inflation. For small estates, the heirs must wait for 40 days after the death, then sign a statutory affidavit and submit it to the appropriate institutions (e.g., the county for real estate or the bank for personal property) to claim the assets.
- For estates with assets valued over $184,500 that cannot be managed through small estate administration, probate may be necessary if the assets are in the deceased party’s name outside of a trust and no beneficiary designation is associated with them. Even estates with relatively low values, such as $200,000, may require probate proceedings.
What Is Probate?
Probate is a court-supervised proceeding in which a deceased person’s assets are gathered, managed, and distributed under the court’s supervision. The process typically takes about a year, though it can be shorter (around seven or eight months) if all deadlines are met and there are no delays in the court system. However, it is common for probate to take close to a year to complete.
What Is The Process Of Administering A Trust?
Administering a trust involves a process similar to probate in some ways, such as marshaling assets, valuing them, paying off debts and creditors, and determining asset distribution. However, trust administration occurs outside of the courtroom setting and is not supervised by the court. Instead, the process relies on communication between the trustees and the beneficiaries to effectively manage the administration.
In cases where a beneficiary disagrees with the trustee’s actions or the trustee is uncertain about what to do, either party can request the court to review the situation. Ideally, trust administration does not require court intervention, and the beneficiaries are kept informed about the proceedings while the trustee follows the instructions laid out in the trust document.
How Long Does The Executor Have To Administer An Estate?
The executor, named in a will, has 30 days from the date of death to file probate. If they fail to do so within 30 days, they lose their priority. However, if they file later and no one contests their role, they might still be appointed.
The administration of an estate should be completed within a reasonable time, which could be around seven months if all deadlines are met. However, some estates may take longer due to factors such as property sales or ongoing litigation.
The court expects the executor to provide an annual report on the administration’s progress, and the duration may vary from a short period to several years, depending on the circumstances.
What Are The Potential Issues That Arise In Post Death Administration?
Potential issues in post-death administration include:
- Valuation of assets: Determining the accurate value of assets like real estate might require multiple appraisals.
- Division of assets: Deciding how to distribute assets among beneficiaries, either equally or with specific assets assigned to different individuals.
- Disputes: Beneficiaries may contest the validity of the trust, claiming improper execution, duress, or undue influence. Preventative measures, such as confirming the grantor’s capacity to sign with a doctor, can be taken to mitigate these issues.
How Can Probate Be Avoided In California?
Probate can be avoided in California by ensuring that no assets are owned solely in the deceased person’s name at the time of death. Establishing a living trust is a popular and effective method for avoiding the court-supervised probate process.
What Can A Probate & Trust Administration Attorney Do To Help Resolve Post-Death Administration?
A competent probate or trust administration attorney can:
- Anticipate potential problems before they arise.
- Advise clients on their responsibilities and provide necessary tools for timely execution.
- Offer accurate advice regarding the process and the client’s behavior throughout the administration.
By addressing issues proactively and providing guidance, an experienced attorney can significantly contribute to the smooth resolution of post-death administration matters. For more information on Post Death Administration In California, an initial consultation is your next best step.