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Representing Clients for Orange County Probate

When a person dies, the legal process of distributing their assets and debts to surviving loved ones follows state laws for intestate succession. The probate process is the legal procedure for distributing assets and property under these laws, but it is a notoriously complex, tedious, stressful, and expensive process. If you recently lost a loved one, you and your family may need to undergo the probate process if the deceased did not have any estate plans in place at the time of their death.

If you and your loved ones find yourselves in this situation, it can be incredibly stressful to brace for complex probate proceedings while mourning the loss of a loved one. An Orange County probate lawyer can be a tremendous asset to you and your relatives in this situation. Depending on your situation, it may be possible to avoid probate or at least avoid the bulk of the difficult proceedings you would face otherwise.

The attorneys at Sweeney Probate Law can provide the legal guidance you need as your Orange County probate attorneys. We have helped many clients navigate the probate laws in place throughout California and can put our experience to work in your case.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Probate?

If you must undergo probate proceedings after the death of a loved one, it is best to have legal representation on your side. The right Orange County probate lawyer can streamline the process significantly, helping you and your family gather the records and documentation you will require to successfully navigate the laws of intestate succession as they apply to your case.

Your Orange County probate attorney can also help you interpret any estate plans your loved one made prior to their death to determine whether they carry legal weight in your situation. It’s unfortunately common for people to leave behind incomplete or unenforceable estate plans, and an Orange County probate lawyer is your best resource when you need to address such issues in probate proceedings

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Lawyer for Probate?

Legal fees are expensive, and the amount you ultimately pay for legal representation typically revolves around the time required to reach a conclusion to your case. Most attorneys bill their services by the hour, so the longer your case takes, the more expensive it will be to hire an attorney.

Before committing to the services of an Orange County probate lawyer, make sure you thoroughly understand their billing policies and how long they anticipate your case to last. This should give you a rough estimate of the total cost of your legal fees once your probate case concludes. However, it’s also important to account for California’s laws regarding attorneys’ fees in probate proceedings.

The state uses a sliding scale of percentages to determine how much a probate attorney may charge for their services. The statutory fees a probate lawyer may charge break down as follows:

  • The attorney may only charge a 4% statutory fee for the first $100,000 in estate value.
  • They may charge 3% of the next $100,000 in estate value.
  • Beyond $200,000, the attorney may charge 2% of the next $800,000.
  • They may charge 1% of the next $9 million.
  • The attorney may charge a statutory fee of .5% of the next $15 million.

The court will determine a reasonable amount the attorney may charge in statutory fees for any estate valued higher than $25 million. A probate attorney in California may use the statutory fee scale to bill their services, charge a flat fee, or bill by the hour. Be certain you understand how your Orange County probate attorney will charge for their services before agreeing to their representation.

What Does a Probate Lawyer Do for You?

When a person dies with an estate plan, the plan will include the deceased’s designated beneficiaries as well the executor or personal representative they want to be responsible for discharging their last wishes and distributing their assets to their beneficiaries. An Orange County probate lawyer’s main task is to guide the executor or personal representative through probate proceedings.

In an ideal situation, the deceased’s estate plan is legally enforceable, and the probate lawyer simply ensures the executor follows the estate plan stipulations and all applicable California laws for intestate succession. In the event the deceased did not have an estate plan or an interested party raises a dispute against the estate plan, the probate lawyer can perform several other valuable functions for the executor and their loved ones.

Ultimately, an Orange County probate lawyer will use their skills and experience to guide the family of a recently deceased individual through their probate proceedings. This may include:

  • Identifying and evaluating estate assets and property.
  • Identifying beneficiaries named in the deceased’s estate plan.
  • Providing legal counsel when a dispute arises concerning the estate plan in question.
  • Ensuring a smooth transfer of the deceased’s property to their beneficiaries.
  • Preparing the family of the decedent for probate proceedings when probate litigation is unavoidable.

If you recently lost a loved one and are unsure about the validity or enforceability of their estate plan, it is best to contact an experienced Orange County probate attorney as soon as possible.

What Is the Difference Between a Probate Lawyer and an Estate Lawyer?

The terms “probate lawyer” and “estate lawyer” are often used interchangeably, but the reality is that these two types of legal professionals focus on different aspects of probate law. A probate lawyer excels at representing clients in probate proceedings, while an estate lawyer typically focuses on helping their clients develop estate plans.

The Orange County probate attorneys at Sweeney Probate Law focus on representing clients facing probate litigation in the Orange County, CA area. Attorney William Sweeney and his team have years of experience handling the most difficult probate cases, and we are prepared to put the full range of our firm’s skill, resources, and experience to work in your case.

How to Avoid Probate

Ultimately, it is best to avoid as much of the probate process as possible but doing so requires that the deceased has some form of estate plan in place at the time of their death. If the deceased has a comprehensive and legally enforceable estate plan that aligns with California’s laws for intestate succession, it is possible for their family to avoid the probate litigation process entirely. In many cases, an estate plan is comprehensive enough to allow the deceased’s loved ones to avoid a great deal of probate proceedings, but they may need to undergo some probate litigation to clarify some aspects of the estate plan in question. When a deceased individual had no estate plan at all, probate is all but unavoidable.

What Should an Estate Plan Include?

If you want your loved ones to avoid the stress and expense of probate litigation after your death, it’s worth taking time to develop the most comprehensive estate plan possible. Generally, a complete estate plan includes four important components:

  1. Your estate plan should include a Medical Care Directive that outlines your preferences for medical treatment should you be unresponsive and unable to make decisions on your own behalf. For example, if you would prefer minimal life support in certain situations, you can outline these preferences in your Medical Care Directive.
  2. You should create a Durable Power of Attorney that assigns Power of Attorney to the individual you prefer, typically a spouse or adult child. Power of Attorney will enable your designated representative to make major decisions on your behalf and apply your signature on legally binding documents in some situations.
  3. Creating a Will allows you to assign beneficiaries. If you have assets and property that you would like to leave to specific loved ones, your Will can provide clear instructions for the distribution of your assets after your death.
  4. A Living Trust is another great addition to an estate plan that can effectively enable your loved ones to avoid probate. By placing your assets in a Living Trust, they are not subject to probate proceedings.

If you create an estate plan that includes these four components, you should expect the estate plan to help your loved ones avoid a significant measure of the probate process if not entirely avoid probate. However, even the most robust and comprehensive estate plans are still subject to dispute.

How to Handle a Probate Dispute

California probate law allows any individual named as a beneficiary of a deceased individual or any party with a legal interest in the deceased’s estate to raise a dispute against the estate plan in good faith if they have sufficient evidence to support their claim. For example, a family member may claim that a recently deceased relative lacked the capacity to create their estate plan or that they were unduly influenced by another beneficiary into creating a legally unenforceable estate plan. These situations are prime examples of why it is best to work with a seasoned Orange County probate lawyer after the death of a loved one. Even if their estate plan seems airtight and legally binding, it is impossible to predict whether a dispute will arise.

Your Orange County probate attorney will help you determine how to handle the probate dispute in question. If you believe you have grounds to contest a will or any aspect of a loved one’s probate proceedings, it’s essential to contact an attorney right away and determine whether it will be worth it to pursue your dispute. If you are attempting to claim a portion of your relative’s estate and were not included in the will, it will be very difficult to obtain any measure of their estate, and even if you do, the amount you receive may not outweigh the cost of your legal fees.

Understanding the Basic Probate Process

If your loved one died without an estate plan, or if their estate plan is incomplete, outdated, or otherwise unenforceable, you and your family should prepare accordingly for difficult probate proceedings. When you work with the Orange County probate attorneys at Sweeney Probate Law, we can make the process much easier for you and your family by providing you with detailed legal guidance and streamlining the probate process as much as possible.

Probate proceedings may commence after the death of an individual. Another party must initiate probate proceedings, and this individual is typically the executor of the deceased’s estate named in their estate plan. If the deceased did not have an estate plan, did not name an executor or personal representative, or if their chosen representative is unable or unwilling to initiate probate proceedings, any party with a legal interest in the estate in question may initiate probate in California. Whoever initiates probate proceedings becomes the administrator of the estate.

The first phase of probate is the filing of the deceased’s Will if they had one. The court will receive this filing and determine whether the Will is legitimate and enforceable. If the deceased had a Will, they had to have witnesses sign it at its creation, and these witnesses would need to provide the court with sworn statements regarding the Will’s legitimacy. Once the Will is approved, the administrator may then move to gathering the deceased’s assets and property for distribution to their beneficiaries.

The administrator’s job is quite complex and can take many months or even years to complete. They will need to create a taxpayer ID and bank account for the estate, and they must record all expenses related to the administration of the estate. These expenses are paid from the estate, so an accurate accounting with documentation is essential. The executor or administrator must ensure the security of all estate assets throughout the probate process. They must also file tax returns for the deceased and their estate. If this sounds like a lot of work, it is, and an experienced Orange County probate lawyer is an invaluable asset for any executor or estate administrator navigating this process.

Find Your Probate Attorney Today

Ultimately, the probate process is more complex when your deceased loved one has no legitimate estate plans at the time of their death. Even when they do, there is no guarantee you and your loved ones can completely avoid the probate litigation process. A reliable Orange County probate lawyer is your best asset in this situation. If you need legal counsel for probate in Orange County, contact Sweeney Probate Law and schedule a consultation with our team to find out how we can assist you.

To schedule a consultation, call me toll free at 800-575-9610 or locally at 760-989-4820. I enjoy meeting in person whenever possible, but am also available via Skype and email.

Representing Clients for Orange County Probate

When a person dies, the legal process of distributing their assets and debts to surviving loved ones follows state laws for intestate succession. The probate process is the legal procedure for distributing assets and property under these laws, but it is a notoriously complex, tedious, stressful, and expensive process. If you recently lost a loved one, you and your family may need to undergo the probate process if the deceased did not have any estate plans in place at the time of their death.

If you and your loved ones find yourselves in this situation, it can be incredibly stressful to brace for complex probate proceedings while mourning the loss of a loved one. An Orange County probate lawyer can be a tremendous asset to you and your relatives in this situation. Depending on your situation, it may be possible to avoid probate or at least avoid the bulk of the difficult proceedings you would face otherwise.

The attorneys at Sweeney Probate Law can provide the legal guidance you need as your Orange County probate attorneys. We have helped many clients navigate the probate laws in place throughout California and can put our experience to work in your case.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Probate?

If you must undergo probate proceedings after the death of a loved one, it is best to have legal representation on your side. The right Orange County probate lawyer can streamline the process significantly, helping you and your family gather the records and documentation you will require to successfully navigate the laws of intestate succession as they apply to your case.

Your Orange County probate attorney can also help you interpret any estate plans your loved one made prior to their death to determine whether they carry legal weight in your situation. It’s unfortunately common for people to leave behind incomplete or unenforceable estate plans, and an Orange County probate lawyer is your best resource when you need to address such issues in probate proceedings

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Lawyer for Probate?

Legal fees are expensive, and the amount you ultimately pay for legal representation typically revolves around the time required to reach a conclusion to your case. Most attorneys bill their services by the hour, so the longer your case takes, the more expensive it will be to hire an attorney.

Before committing to the services of an Orange County probate lawyer, make sure you thoroughly understand their billing policies and how long they anticipate your case to last. This should give you a rough estimate of the total cost of your legal fees once your probate case concludes. However, it’s also important to account for California’s laws regarding attorneys’ fees in probate proceedings.

The state uses a sliding scale of percentages to determine how much a probate attorney may charge for their services. The statutory fees a probate lawyer may charge break down as follows:

  • The attorney may only charge a 4% statutory fee for the first $100,000 in estate value.
  • They may charge 3% of the next $100,000 in estate value.
  • Beyond $200,000, the attorney may charge 2% of the next $800,000.
  • They may charge 1% of the next $9 million.
  • The attorney may charge a statutory fee of .5% of the next $15 million.

The court will determine a reasonable amount the attorney may charge in statutory fees for any estate valued higher than $25 million. A probate attorney in California may use the statutory fee scale to bill their services, charge a flat fee, or bill by the hour. Be certain you understand how your Orange County probate attorney will charge for their services before agreeing to their representation.

What Does a Probate Lawyer Do for You?

When a person dies with an estate plan, the plan will include the deceased’s designated beneficiaries as well the executor or personal representative they want to be responsible for discharging their last wishes and distributing their assets to their beneficiaries. An Orange County probate lawyer’s main task is to guide the executor or personal representative through probate proceedings.

In an ideal situation, the deceased’s estate plan is legally enforceable, and the probate lawyer simply ensures the executor follows the estate plan stipulations and all applicable California laws for intestate succession. In the event the deceased did not have an estate plan or an interested party raises a dispute against the estate plan, the probate lawyer can perform several other valuable functions for the executor and their loved ones.

Ultimately, an Orange County probate lawyer will use their skills and experience to guide the family of a recently deceased individual through their probate proceedings. This may include:

  • Identifying and evaluating estate assets and property.
  • Identifying beneficiaries named in the deceased’s estate plan.
  • Providing legal counsel when a dispute arises concerning the estate plan in question.
  • Ensuring a smooth transfer of the deceased’s property to their beneficiaries.
  • Preparing the family of the decedent for probate proceedings when probate litigation is unavoidable.

If you recently lost a loved one and are unsure about the validity or enforceability of their estate plan, it is best to contact an experienced Orange County probate attorney as soon as possible.

What Is the Difference Between a Probate Lawyer and an Estate Lawyer?

The terms “probate lawyer” and “estate lawyer” are often used interchangeably, but the reality is that these two types of legal professionals focus on different aspects of probate law. A probate lawyer excels at representing clients in probate proceedings, while an estate lawyer typically focuses on helping their clients develop estate plans.

The Orange County probate attorneys at Sweeney Probate Law focus on representing clients facing probate litigation in the Orange County, CA area. Attorney William Sweeney and his team have years of experience handling the most difficult probate cases, and we are prepared to put the full range of our firm’s skill, resources, and experience to work in your case.

How to Avoid Probate

Ultimately, it is best to avoid as much of the probate process as possible but doing so requires that the deceased has some form of estate plan in place at the time of their death. If the deceased has a comprehensive and legally enforceable estate plan that aligns with California’s laws for intestate succession, it is possible for their family to avoid the probate litigation process entirely. In many cases, an estate plan is comprehensive enough to allow the deceased’s loved ones to avoid a great deal of probate proceedings, but they may need to undergo some probate litigation to clarify some aspects of the estate plan in question. When a deceased individual had no estate plan at all, probate is all but unavoidable.

What Should an Estate Plan Include?

If you want your loved ones to avoid the stress and expense of probate litigation after your death, it’s worth taking time to develop the most comprehensive estate plan possible. Generally, a complete estate plan includes four important components:

  1. Your estate plan should include a Medical Care Directive that outlines your preferences for medical treatment should you be unresponsive and unable to make decisions on your own behalf. For example, if you would prefer minimal life support in certain situations, you can outline these preferences in your Medical Care Directive.
  2. You should create a Durable Power of Attorney that assigns Power of Attorney to the individual you prefer, typically a spouse or adult child. Power of Attorney will enable your designated representative to make major decisions on your behalf and apply your signature on legally binding documents in some situations.
  3. Creating a Will allows you to assign beneficiaries. If you have assets and property that you would like to leave to specific loved ones, your Will can provide clear instructions for the distribution of your assets after your death.
  4. A Living Trust is another great addition to an estate plan that can effectively enable your loved ones to avoid probate. By placing your assets in a Living Trust, they are not subject to probate proceedings.

If you create an estate plan that includes these four components, you should expect the estate plan to help your loved ones avoid a significant measure of the probate process if not entirely avoid probate. However, even the most robust and comprehensive estate plans are still subject to dispute.

How to Handle a Probate Dispute

California probate law allows any individual named as a beneficiary of a deceased individual or any party with a legal interest in the deceased’s estate to raise a dispute against the estate plan in good faith if they have sufficient evidence to support their claim. For example, a family member may claim that a recently deceased relative lacked the capacity to create their estate plan or that they were unduly influenced by another beneficiary into creating a legally unenforceable estate plan. These situations are prime examples of why it is best to work with a seasoned Orange County probate lawyer after the death of a loved one. Even if their estate plan seems airtight and legally binding, it is impossible to predict whether a dispute will arise.

Your Orange County probate attorney will help you determine how to handle the probate dispute in question. If you believe you have grounds to contest a will or any aspect of a loved one’s probate proceedings, it’s essential to contact an attorney right away and determine whether it will be worth it to pursue your dispute. If you are attempting to claim a portion of your relative’s estate and were not included in the will, it will be very difficult to obtain any measure of their estate, and even if you do, the amount you receive may not outweigh the cost of your legal fees.

Understanding the Basic Probate Process

If your loved one died without an estate plan, or if their estate plan is incomplete, outdated, or otherwise unenforceable, you and your family should prepare accordingly for difficult probate proceedings. When you work with the Orange County probate attorneys at Sweeney Probate Law, we can make the process much easier for you and your family by providing you with detailed legal guidance and streamlining the probate process as much as possible.

Probate proceedings may commence after the death of an individual. Another party must initiate probate proceedings, and this individual is typically the executor of the deceased’s estate named in their estate plan. If the deceased did not have an estate plan, did not name an executor or personal representative, or if their chosen representative is unable or unwilling to initiate probate proceedings, any party with a legal interest in the estate in question may initiate probate in California. Whoever initiates probate proceedings becomes the administrator of the estate.

The first phase of probate is the filing of the deceased’s Will if they had one. The court will receive this filing and determine whether the Will is legitimate and enforceable. If the deceased had a Will, they had to have witnesses sign it at its creation, and these witnesses would need to provide the court with sworn statements regarding the Will’s legitimacy. Once the Will is approved, the administrator may then move to gathering the deceased’s assets and property for distribution to their beneficiaries.

The administrator’s job is quite complex and can take many months or even years to complete. They will need to create a taxpayer ID and bank account for the estate, and they must record all expenses related to the administration of the estate. These expenses are paid from the estate, so an accurate accounting with documentation is essential. The executor or administrator must ensure the security of all estate assets throughout the probate process. They must also file tax returns for the deceased and their estate. If this sounds like a lot of work, it is, and an experienced Orange County probate lawyer is an invaluable asset for any executor or estate administrator navigating this process.

Find Your Probate Attorney Today

Ultimately, the probate process is more complex when your deceased loved one has no legitimate estate plans at the time of their death. Even when they do, there is no guarantee you and your loved ones can completely avoid the probate litigation process. A reliable Orange County probate lawyer is your best asset in this situation. If you need legal counsel for probate in Orange County, contact Sweeney Probate Law and schedule a consultation with our team to find out how we can assist you.

To schedule a consultation, call me toll free at 800-575-9610 or locally at 760-989-4820. I enjoy meeting in person whenever possible, but am also available via Skype and email.