With a population approaching 40 million, California is home to more people than any other state. Even if you don’t currently live there, chances are someone close to you does. If this is the case, it might be important to brush up on the basics of probate law in California. This is because you may end being involved in the management and distribution of their estate. Foreknowledge of the probate process in California can better prepare you in the event outside entities file estate claims which challenge your interests.
Without further ado, here are the important things families across the country need to know about probate law in California:
The value of a good lawyer
Lawyers are like doctors in that many of them choose to specialize in specific areas of their profession. With this in mind, it’s important to retain the services of a specialized probate lawyer in California rather than choosing one with a focus on family law or criminal defense. This doesn’t mean lawyers can’t specialize in more than one area of the law – many of them do – it’s just important to make sure one of those areas is probate. This is true in any state, but especially so in California, where the probate laws and estate claims process can be particularly complex and challenging to those unfamiliar.
The rights of direct heirs
While a written will provides the foundation for the lawful distribution of the decedent’s estate, it’s not an explicitly legally binding document. In other words, a will can be contested and thrown out under certain circumstances. One of the ways a will can be challenged under California probate law is if it does not contain any affirmative language of disinheritance in reference to direct heirs. In other words, in order for a direct heir such as a son or granddaughter to be disinherited, the will must state so in plain language. Furthermore, the California omitted heir statute means that in the event a direct heir is not mentioned at all in a will which bequeaths an estate to outside entities, that heir has a right to challenge the will.
The rights of creditors
People who die sometimes still owe money to creditors. Under California law, these creditors have a right to file a claim against that person’s estate. It’s important for families involved in the management and distribution of a recently deceased person’s estate to compile a list of known creditors as they prepare to start the probate process. This helps to eliminate the possibility of fraudulent entities attempting to present themselves as creditors to the friends and family of the decedent.
Estate and inheritance taxes
There is currently no estate tax at the state level in California. The same is true for inheritance tax. However, if the person receiving the inheritance lives in a state with a tax imposed, they will have to pay it despite the fact the bequeather lived in a state with no such tax.
More Americans live in California than in any other state in the union. Given the high probability of you or a loved one living in the Golden State, knowledge of the California probate process may prove to be an important resource to rely on some day.