Los Angeles Probate Attorney
Navigating Complex Cases with Ease
It is always advisable to hire an experienced lawyer to handle probate matters because the applicable laws are numerous and often complex. The Law Office of Mitchell A. Port can work with you to navigate the probate process smoothly, allowing you to reap its benefits — such as the elimination of creditors’ claims against the property of the deceased person (the decedent) and the guarantee that the property will pass to the rightful heirs (the beneficiaries) — while avoiding the potentially significant and costly errors commonly made by less experienced probate attorneys.
What Is Probate?
When someone who owns property in California dies, a California court may need to oversee the transfer of property ownership from the decedent’s estate to the heirs, regardless of whether or not the individual has a will. This oversight process is called probate. Probate typically occurs when the decedent owns real estate and personal property (like stocks, bonds, bank accounts) in California valued at more than $150,000.
To the extent possible, probate should be avoided. Although there are many different techniques that exist under California probate law that can allow someone to avoid probate, there will be cases when probate cannot be avoided and the process must be started in order to transfer ownership of the decedent’s property to the rightful heirs.
Our Probate Services
In addition to administering a decedent’s estate and identifying and distributing assets to beneficiaries, we also offer services for other issues that may require the attention of a probate court.
- Lost wills
- Will contests
- The removal of executors and trustees
- Petitions for probate
- Trust administration
- Probate litigation
- Post-mortem tax planning
- Other legal matters that must go through probate, including conservatorships (a court proceeding for incapacitated and incompetent adults) and guardianships (a court proceeding for minors)
Our Probate attorney in Los Angeles has successfully represented clients in probate cases involving real estate, stocks, bonds, and investments of all kinds, such as general and limited partnerships, limited liability companies, sole proprietorships, corporations, and active businesses.
In the event that your probate case involves a tax controversy matter – such as unpaid income taxes owed by the deceased or estate taxes – Mitch Port has extensive experience in tax controversy and can offer you simple yet effective solutions.
Probate is rarely straightforward – but working with your law firm should be. Probate litigation can be a stressful experience, involving high-risk exposure and unpredictable results. You need a lawyer who will simplify the process, not complicate it further. At the Law Office of Mitchell A. Port our Los Angeles probate lawyer is committed to helping you find the most direct route to a successful outcome.
When you are faced with probate, choose a law firm that will help you chart the right course. Choose the Law Office of Mitchell A. Port for representation in any probate court in California.
Are Probate Records Public in California?
Are you searching for probate documents that were filed in the state of California? Not sure if you can licitly obtain the records or even view them?
The Public Case Access System in California allows the public to view case information and public documents on Probate, Trust, and Estate cases that were filed after February 5, 2007. Name searches and downloads of the documents will require public access fees to the Court. Once you have located the county that the probate was filed and viewed the probate court docket online, the steps involved in obtaining a replica of a will or other probate document directly from the probate court online will include the following:
Mailing or faxing an inscribed request to the court
Paying a fee for the copying of pages that the will or probate contains.They conventionally range from $1 to a couple of dollars per page.
You must provide a self-addressed stamped envelope for mailing the printed copies back to you
Depending on how recent your file is, your request for documents may take six to eight weeks to process and for you to receive in the mail
Avoiding probate in California
Avoiding the probate court process in California can save you a lot of time, money, and confusion. It’s not a surprise that people want to take the necessary steps to protect their families from having to go through it.
Different states offer different ways to avoid probate. Here are ways of avoiding probate in California:
- Creating a Living Trust
- Setting up a Joint Ownership
- Payable-on-Death Designations for Bank Accounts
- Transfer-on-Death Registration for Securities
- Transfer-on-Death Deeds for Real Estate
- Transfer-on-Death Registration for Vehicles
You can create a living trust in California to avoid the probate process on any asset you own, whether that be a bank account, vehicle or real estate. Once you create a trust document, you will have to name someone as the successor trustee who will oversee your belongings after your passing. One step you must complete is transferring ownership of your property to yourself as the trustee of the trust. This will allow the successor trustee to be able to transfer your assets to your beneficiaries upon your passing and avoid the probate process.
You can own and operate property with another individual through joint ownership. “Right of Survivorship” on the joint ownership allows a person to take full ownership of the property in the event the other owner passes. Probate can be avoided when transferring the property, but it will take some documented proof to show the title of your property is owned by the surviving owner.
There are two types of joint ownership available in California:
Joint tenancy: No probate is needed in joint tenancy as property will automatically transfer to surviving owners when one owner passes. This type of joint ownership works well for couples who acquire vehicles, real estate or other valuable property, and bank accounts. In California, each owner is referred to as a joint tenant and must own an equal share.
Communal property with right of survivorship: Unless couples take certain steps to keep assets or property separate from each other, California law has all property owned jointly in a marriage because it is a community property state.
Payable-on-Death Designations for Bank Accounts
California allows people to add a “payable-on-death” (POD) designation to certificates of deposit or savings accounts. This allows you to remain in control of all of your money in the account until the time of your passing, at which point the POD beneficiary can claim money from the bank while avoiding probate court proceedings.
Transfer-on-Death Registration for Securities
In California, you can use transfer-on-death (TOD) registration for bonds and stocks. Using this method allows people to hold brokerage accounts in this way. The beneficiary you name will automatically inherit the account at the time of your death if you registered an account with TOD. The beneficiary will have to deal directly with the brokerage company to transfer the account and will not have to attend any probate court proceedings.
Transfer-on-Death Deeds for Real Estate
Transfer-on-death deeds are also allowed for real estate in the state of California. These are sometimes referred to as beneficiary deeds. You can go through the process of setting these up now, but they won’t take effect until the time of your passing. You can sell the property or revoke the deed at any time, and the beneficiary you named on your deed has no rights until your death under Cal. Probate Code § 5620.
Transfer-on-Death Registration for Vehicles
Transfer-on-death registration for vehicles are also allowed in the state of California. If you choose to register your vehicle like this, the person you named as the beneficiary will inherit the vehicle automatically after your passing. This route will not require probate court proceedings either.
Simplified Probate Procedures
There is another avenue your estate might qualify for in the state of California, and that would be “small estate” probate proceedings, which are available for some California properties. Reach out to our probate attorney in Los Angeles today to explore how you can possibly avoid probate court proceedings.
For more relevant information, check out these blog posts:
- How Long is California Probate?
- Los Angeles Superior Court’s Probate Filing Fees
- Can You Pay for Probate Litigation on a Contingency Basis?
- Electronic Filing in California Probate Court
- Law Office of Mitchell A. Port Named 2019 Best Probate Attorneys in Los Angeles