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Modern Estate Planning Blog

Elder Law & Special Needs Planning

Some Commonly Asked Questions from a Sacramento Probate Lawyer

February 27, 2012

Probate lawyers in Sacramento County understand that while we’re well-versed in the topic, it is a whole new world to most of our clients. That means that you likely have lots of questions that you need answered. Fortunately, answering those questions is exactly what we do!

Do the Sacramento County Probate Courts Have to Be Involved?

One of the most common questions asked when someone dies without a will is whether or not the courts must be involved. The short answer to this is “yes.” The Sacramento probate lawyer helps to guide the estate through the process.

The probate court’s job is to ensure that the decedent’s affairs are legally concluded. This typically means that someone is appointed to be in charge of the estate and follow through with transferring property to heirs as deemed appropriate. In addition, court fees, estate taxes, creditors, and all other applicable costs will be paid out of the estate. When this person is named by the courts, he or she is usually either referred to as the personal representative or the administrator.

Who Inherits the Estate?

When an estate goes into probate in Sacramento County, the proper division of property is determined by the courts. Each state has its own laws regarding how the property is divided, so working with a probate attorney in California, is the best way to ensure you understand what applies in your case.

The most common method of distribution is for property to go to family members. Most states, after paying the associated fees and other outstanding costs, will award money and property first to a current spouse and children of the decedent. If this person is unmarried and/or without children, the estate will likely go to parents, with siblings, grandparents, and aunts and uncles falling in line after those. In cases where no family members are found, the estate can become property of the state.

How Can I Avoid Probate in California?

The best way to avoid probate, of course, is to plan. A probate lawyer or estate planning attorney in Sacramento can help you determine your needs and goals and get you set up with the right documentation to make sure that your wishes are outlined well in advance. That way, you make the decisions about your estate, instead of leaving it in the hands of the courts.

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Very professional, comprehensive service and extremely valuable. Heather and her team are very knowledgeable and we feel they have our best interests at heart. They make uncomfortable decision conversations possible and manageable. Working with Heather we were able to focus our attention on important issues that we questioned or purposely avoided for too long. Now that these questions are answered and our family is covered, it's a wonderful feeling.

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