The Elder and Disability Law Firm, APC April 13, 2018

California requires that certain property go through the probate process. This process ensures that any will a person has is valid and that a personal representative for the estate is appointed. If an individual did not have a will, he or she is said to have died intestate. The same is true if the document is declared invalid because of an error or because of a successful challenge.

Even if a person dies intestate, the steps taken during probate are largely the same. The assets of the deceased person will be inventoried and appraised to determine the value of the estate. In some cases, a federal estate tax return must be filed and estate taxes paid. A personal income tax return may also need to be filed and taxes owed paid in a timely manner.

Creditors will also need to be identified and their claims handled. This is generally done by putting an death notice in a newspaper. If balances are owed to creditors, they must generally be paid assuming that there is money in the estate to pay them. If a claim for payment is deemed to be invalid, it could be rejected outright. After bills are paid, whatever is left can be distributed to beneficiaries after the personal representative receives court approval to do so.

Creating a comprehensive estate plan with a will, trust and power of attorney may help a person protect his or her wealth while alive and after death. Putting assets into a trust may enable assets to avoid going through probate. This could make it easier to distribute assets quickly without the need to worry about creditor or other claims stopping that from happening.

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