A Basic Guide to Probate in San Francisco

Hire an experienced San Francisco probate attorney to handle your probate administration and probate litigation needs.

At a time when you are struggling to cope with a multitude of tasks after losing a loved one, for peace of mind hire an experienced San Francisco probate lawyer.

Loren M. Lopin, is an experienced San Francisco probate attorney, handling probate cases and probate litigation throughout Northern California as well as the 9 counties in the Bay Area, including:

San Francisco,

North Bay (Marin, Sonoma, Solano and Napa counties),

East Bay (Alameda and Contra Costa Counties), and

Peninsula and South Bay (San Mateo and Santa Clara counties).

An Overview of the Probate Process

To help you get through the San Francisco probate process as smoothly as possible, you’ll need to understand how the procedure works.

Although the state provides information about the process, the language used is very formal and the information given very complex. This makes it open to misinterpretations, which may lead to problems and delays in closing the probate estate.

Some of the services that a San Francisco probate lawyer provides are legal advice, document reviews, preparation of petitions, assistance with transfers and sales of real estate and assistance in completing tax returns. In some cases, it might be worth it to turn the entire process over to the probate lawyer.

To give you an overview, below is the probate process in California broken down into 3 phases.

Phase I. Filing a Petition

The probate petition includes information about the following:

the person who died

the executor

the heirs

size of the estate

whether a bond is required

The probate process officially begins when a petition is filed with the Superior Court of California. If the decedent did not have a Will, then the court will appoint an administrator to perform many of the functions, such as gathering assets and identifying the creditors of the decedent’s estate. If the decedent has a Will, then the Will generally names an executor. The executor assists the attorney in identifying the decedent’s assets and creditors and family members who will receive notice of the probate proceeding. The executor or administrator, also referred to as the personal representative, his responsibilities include the following; accounting for estate assets, paying bills, filing tax returns and distributing the estate after the court issues an order. If there’s a Will, the Will is filed with the probate petition. Once a hearing is set, notices of when the hearing will be held are sent to all heirs. This includes publishing a “Notice to Creditors” in a local newspaper and notifying all known creditors to file a claim. Creditors of the deceased usually have only 4 months after the estate is opened to file their claims or 60 days from the date of receiving actual written notice. If a claim is made against the estate, the administrator or executor has the right to pay or reject the claim in whole or in part. If the claim is rejected, the creditor can file a separate civil lawsuit against the estate which can stretch the probate administration of the estate for months or even years.

Phase II. Probate Administration

Approval of the petition and issuance of Letters Testamentary (with a Will) or Letters of Administration (without a will) to the representative signals the start of probate administration.

This gives the executor or administrator the responsibility and authority to perform the following duties:

Take an inventory of the estate property. This inventory is submitted to a Court-appointed referee, who appraises the value of each of the items.

Identify and settle creditor claims against the estate.

Sell real and personal property. If some of the assets need to be sold in order to distribute the proceeds or pay taxes, then the attorney and executor or administrator work together to accomplish this task with approval of the probate judge.

Pay federal and state taxes.

Phase III. Closing the Estate

Upon completing the inventory, appraisal, and liquidation of assets if necessary, the administrator or executor prepares a final petition to close the estate and distribute the assets.

This petition details the actions taken by the executor and includes an accounting of the executor’s dealings with estate assets. Once the petition is filed, the court usually sets a hearing date within forty-five days from the filing date. Concerned parties are given notice about the hearing and given a copy of the final petition for their review. If there are any objections, the objecting party may file a written objection with the court.

The fees paid to the executor or administrator and the attorney, which are paid by the estate, are fixed fees proscribed by statute, and must be approved by the judge. Once the accounting has been approved by the court, the net amount of the estate is distributed to the beneficiaries and the probate proceeding is closed.

Ideally, the whole San Francisco probate process is completed within a year. However, if there is probate litigation the probate process could take years to complete.

Beneficiary and Creditor Interests
If you are a beneficiary or a creditor with either a concern that the probate may not be progressing in a manner that you think is appropriate or if you have an actual dispute with the executor or administrator in the probate proceeding, Loren M. Lopin, a San Francisco probate attorney can represent your interests.
There is no charge for an initial probate consultation. Loren M. Lopin, may be reached at (415) 200-4592 or by email at “mailto:Loren@estateplansf.com” Loren@estateplansf.com

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