Probate Litigation consists of legal disputes about issues related to aging, disability and death. It involves court battles over those still alive, powers of attorney, patient advocate designations, and living wills.
Do you know what probate is? Do you know when it is required? Are you aware that there is an entire volume of California law referred to as the Probate Code? Did you know that after someone dies, you cannot simply walk off with their property?
Probate involves the transfer of property by will (testate) or when there is no will (intestacy) to heirs in a manner supervised by the Superior Court in the county in which a person had their home when they died. Fees are set by statute for the executor and the attorney. In some cases a full-on probate may be avoided by the use of authorized methods (e.g. spousal set-aside, small-estate declaration). Generally, no probate is necessary when a properly funded trust has been established as part of the estate plan. In all events, debts of the deceased and taxes, including federal estate taxes (see trust administration below) must be paid prior to distribution. Probate is a process and requires documents to be filed with the court. Sometimes court appearances are also required as a part of the process.
I am skilled in the various aspects of probate law. I help my clients throughout this process. I encourage you tocontact me to discuss any probate issues or other questions that you may have.
Probate & Trust Litigation
Did you receive what you expected when your parents died? When your favorite uncle passed on? Were you promised possessions that were not delivered to you? Or has money been withheld from you even though you are entitled to it?
This type of conflict typically occurs when a family member believes that they didn’t inherit from someone who died because of the undue influence exerted by other beneficiaries, or when a family member is a beneficiary and the other family member, charged with the responsibility for distributing the wealth, holds on to it instead. These conflicts usually involve siblings (e.g., brother against brother, brother against sister, sister against sister, and so on.) I have even litigated a case in which one half-sister denied that the other half-sister was a relation (resolved by DNA testing). Litigation is also common when there is a second marriage and children from first marriage begrudge any money or assets going to the surviving second spouse. It has been my experience that if the estate planning documents are drafted correctly and implemented properly, the likelihood of litigation is minimized. Regardless, I am experienced and capable of handling any of these situations on your behalf.
If you find that you are in a situation such as I have described, call me or contact me online. I can help.
Are you a trustee? Do you know what fiduciary duties are? Have you read the trust instrument appointing you and do you understand it? Do you know what fiduciary income tax returns are? What a federal estate tax return is? Despite the best efforts of all concerned, administration of trusts and estates can be confusing. Typically, fiduciary income tax returns are required until there has been a final distribution of assets. In addition, if the person who died had a taxable estate (for purposes of the federal estate tax), it is the responsibility of the personal representative of the person who died to file the estate tax return (federal Form 706) within nine months of the date of death. One of the services that I provide is expert preparation of Form 706.
Call me or contact me online if you are unsure of your responsibilities or otherwise need assistance. I am available to help.