P.O.Box 225081, San Francisco, CA 94122

call us415-534-1200

San Francisco, California Probate Lawyer

San Francisco Bay Area probate law firm

Attorney For Estate Planning, Execution, and Probate Litigation in San Francisco County

A thorough estate plan can go a long way toward ensuring that you have access to the care you need during your last years, and that your family and other beneficiaries inherit your assets as you intend. However, even with a comprehensive estate plan, at least some aspects of your estate may have to be administered through the probate process.

Though probate occurs after your death, you can take action during your lifetime to help it proceed more smoothly. At the Law Office of Martin Alperen, we can help you understand and plan for the probate process, and we can also assist estate executors in their dealings with the probate court to ensure proper administration.

What Happens During Probate in San Francisco County?

The primary purpose of probate is to settle your financial affairs after your death, and it begins with the court determining whether you have a valid last will and testament. If it exists, this document will serve as a guide throughout the probate process. When creating a will, you should name the executor of your estate, who will be responsible for working with the California probate court to administer the terms of your will and complete other necessary steps.

If you leave behind minor children upon your death, one crucial step in the probate process is appointing a guardian for them. If you have nominated a guardian in your will, the court will often honor your choice provided that the person is fit to care for your children.

Before distributing your assets to your chosen heirs and beneficiaries, the probate court will need to determine the value of your property and whether you had any outstanding financial obligations at the time of your death, including debts, income taxes, and federal estate taxes. The executor must notify all of your known creditors and work to pay your obligations using assets from the estate.

After taking care of your debts and taxes, your administrator can then begin the process of distributing your remaining assets to the beneficiaries named in your will. During this time, someone may come forward to contest your will, in which case your executor may need an attorney to assist with probate litigation. However, if there are no issues, your assets can often be distributed according to your wishes.

California Probate Without a Will

The probate process can be much longer and more complicated if you die without a valid will. In this case, the court will have to appoint an administrator to handle your assets and distribute them through a process known as "intestate succession," in which your property is allocated in predetermined portions to your spouse, children, and other relatives according to state law. If you have surviving minor children, the court will also need to hear petitions for guardianship or appoint a guardian itself. If you wish to maintain control of your assets and your children's well-being, a will is absolutely necessary.

Can I Avoid the Probate Process?

Many estate planning strategies are designed to minimize the involvement of the probate court and either maintain control over or simplify the process of passing on assets. For example, any assets placed in a trust are exempt from the probate process and instead are distributed to your beneficiaries according to the plan you have established. Jointly owned properties can also pass to the co-owner by right of survivorship, and assets with named beneficiaries, such as retirement accounts and life insurance policies, can also avoid probate. If your estate is valued below $166,250, it may also be possible to transfer property by affidavit without requiring the entire probate process.

Contact a North Bay Area Probate Attorney

Whether you are planning for your own estate or executing someone else's, we are ready to help. Contact us at 415-534-1200 for a free consultation at a location of your choice throughout the Bay Area, including San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Marin County, Alameda County, and the surrounding areas.

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