PROBATE IN CALIFORNIA


                 Pros                           Cons

        1. Court supervised               1. Time consuming

        2. Titles of assets remain        2. Public record
           unchanged during life                 

                                          3. Heirs must be
                                             notified

                                          4. Wills are prone to
                                             contests

                                          5. Statutory attorney
                                             and executor fees
Intestacy. Without a will or living trust, at death property not held in joint tenancy, or which will not pass by a contractual arrangement (such as a life insurance policy) will pass under California's laws of intestacy according to a statutory order of priority (generally the spouse, then children, then parents, etc.).

 Probate Threshold Amount. Property with an aggregate value in excess of $100,000 which passes by will or intestate succession is subject to probate administration, a process by which the court determines the validity of a will and who is entitled to receive distributions of the decedent's property either under the will or according to the laws of intestacy. Note that property held in joint tenancy or which will pass by contractual arrangement will not be subject to probate administration.

 Probate Proceedings Public Record. The proceedings of the probate court are a public record and anyone can have access to information about the nature and size of a decedent's estate as well as the identities of any beneficiaries. Additionally, at the beginning of the probate process all heirs (i.e., those individuals who would receive property by intestate succession) and beneficiaries under a will must be notified of the probate proceedings and may contest the provisions of a will.

 Attorney and Executor Compensation in Probate. Unless compensation has been otherwise provided for in a will, attorneys and executors who administer the estate in probate are entitled to fees according to a statutory schedule. In addition to the statutory fees, attorneys and executors are entitled to "extraordinary" fees for services such as selling real property and preparing tax returns. The statutory fee which attorneys and executors are each entitled to is a percentage of the appraised value of the estate assets without regard to encumbrances:

The following chart shows some of the statutory fee calculations:
            Gross Value of Estate        Fees due both Attorney
                                            and Executor, each

             $ 100,000.........................$ 3,150

               300,000.........................  7,150

               500,000......................... 11,150

               700,000......................... 15,150

               900,000......................... 19,150

             1,000,000......................... 21,150

             2,000,000......................... 31,150
 
             4,000,000......................... 51,150
Duration of Probate Process. From the time probate proceedings are initiated to the final distribution of estate assets to beneficiaries, an average of one to two years will have elapsed. During this time most important aspects of estate administration, including notice to heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors, and inventorying and appraising estate assets, require court oversight and approval. Beneficiaries may not receive their share of the estate until the probate process is completed. Additionally, the continuation of a business which is a part of the decedent's estate may be problematic during probate.

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(source unknown, ed. R Daniels 1998)