A Palm Desert probate lawyer deals with trusts, wills, estates, and inheritance. In California, every will is subject to probate law. This branch of law is dedicated to deciding who the new rightful owners of the property should be (inherits) from the estate of a deceased person. A probate attorney can help guide the beneficiaries and family members through this process, which can be an emotionally trying undertaking because of the recent loss of a loved one and any tensions that could result between family members.
It is important to seek out probate attorneys who understand this dynamic and can work with the family to handle issues as smoothly and quickly as possible. Our attorney has been working with families in and out of court since 1994, and he brings years of life experience to the design table when it is time to build your plan.
An Inside Look at Probate Court
In California, each will must go through the probate process. The family can get help from a law firm like the Law Office of Heath L. Baker to help guide them through this process.
In some cases, the probate process is a formality that exists to verify the identity of the decedent, their beneficiaries, and the validity of the will.
The process includes an assessment of the estate to ascertain its value and proof that all debts, taxes, and other financial obligations attached to the estate are paid off prior to the allocation of remaining assets.
If there is no will or if an existing document is unclear, a probate judge will take a more involved role in the process and ultimately decide which beneficiaries inherit the decedent’s assets.
What is Probate Litigation?
What does a probate lawyer do? Probate litigation involves contesting the contents of a will, trust, or other inheritance vehicles. Probate lawyers can also help beneficiaries or other relatives of a decedent challenge certain aspects of the inheritance process, such as a breach of fiduciary duty by a trustee, a trust administrator, or a will executor.
In many instances, probate litigation cases involve arguing that one party put undue influence on a benefactor to change a will or trust or took advantage of their temporary or permanent mental incapacity to make changes to their estate plan.
In some instances, a probate attorney can deal with cases involving a living benefactor who is making unexpected changes to their estate plan. The goal in such cases is usually to ensure the court honors a previous version of the will instead of the one altered under suspicious circumstances.
Probate attorneys are familiar with the legal process required to challenge the contents of a will or trust or the actions of someone involved in the estate planning or inheritance allocation process. They can guide you through the steps and ensure you have evidence or a legal argument to support your claim.
Probate Lawyers Serving Your Needs Each Step of the Way
What is a probate lawyer expected to do in inheritance cases? Probate courts have very specific processes and requirements for challenging a will, trust, or other aspects of the inheritance process. You need the services of an experienced lawyer like Heath Baker to guide you through the process and help you decide on the best course of action to have the court address your grievances. He worked as a law enforcement officer and private investigator in Riverside County, so he is intimately familiar with the steps necessary to build a solid legal argument for a judge. He also handles family law cases, giving him a deep understanding of the emotional aspects that often arise during inheritance-related litigation.
These qualities are important as you decide how to proceed with your probate case, build an argument, and file your case with the court.
Probate attorneys are also essential for presenting your case before a judge, who will ultimately weigh the arguments and make a final decision about the will or trust.
What Is the Difference Between a Probate Lawyer and an Estate Lawyer?
The Judicial Branch of California places wills, estates, and probate laws in the same category. However, there are some important differences between a probate attorney and an estate lawyer.
The primary distinction is the role each plays in the process of estate planning and inheritance. Estate lawyers are usually involved in the planning phase. They help you create an estate plan and record your wishes in a legally binding way using wills, trusts, and other methods to ensure your beneficiaries inherit your assets according to your wishes. A good estate planning lawyer will keep you out of the probate process and their fees are intended to keep you from paying much higher probate fees at the time of your death.
A probate attorney becomes involved after the death of an estate owner unless someone wants to challenge a change to a will (known as a codicil) while the benefactor is still alive.
Probate lawyers can help facilitate a smooth inheritance process, or they can assist one party in challenging the contents of the will or the actions of someone involved in the probate process. Probate attorneys are paid a percentage of the value of the estate going through probate.
BE CAREFUL! Do not allow an attorney to talk you into a will for a few hundred dollars, with the guarantee that your family will receive “everything.” They will only receive everything that is leftover. Court fees, taxes, and the attorney’s legal fee must be paid first and usually end up costing the estate about five-percent (5%) of the total value. Attorney fees for probate alone will exceed $7,000 if your estate is valued at just $200,001.
What Is the Normal Fee for a Probate Lawyer?
How much does a probate lawyer cost? The compensation for a probate lawyer is outlined by the California Probate Code. The amount for legal services is based on the value of the estate accounted for by the personal representative. Here is the amount you can expect to pay for the services of a qualified probate attorney.
- Four percent (4%) on value up to $100,000
- Three percent (3%) on the next $100,000
- Two percent on (2%) values between $200,000 and $1 million
- One percent (1%) on the next $9 million
- One-half of 1 percent (0.5%) on the next $15 million
- The court decides a reasonable amount for estates totaling more than $25 million
You might be ordered to pay an equal amount to the personal representative if you failed to prepare your plan properly. Therefore, an additional $7,000 in fees on an estate worth as little as $200,001. If your estate (real property, retirement, life insurance, assets) exceeds $500,000, you can plan on shelling out $13,000 to an attorney to handle your probate, when you could have resolved it all for $10,000 less with attorney Heath Baker.
At the start of the process, you should find an attorney willing to provide a consultation requiring a commitment on your part to participate. During this meeting, they can outline the expected costs of their services. At the Law Office of Heath L. Baker, our fees and costs for estate planning are predetermined and set before the client ever contacts us. There is only an increase in the fee or cost, if the client chooses to add features to their plan.
Contact Heath Baker Law to Speak With a Probate Lawyer Today
If you search for a “probate lawyer near me,” you will likely find plenty of options. However, many attorneys are unfamiliar with the nuances of probate law and how family relationships and emotions can affect the process. Heath Baker brings experience as a litigator, investigator, and family lawyer to his probate work, so you can be confident that you are working with an attorney with a deep understanding of the law and the emotionally challenging time you are facing. If you are in Riverside, Palm Desert and San Bernardino counties, contact probate attorney Heath Baker for a free consultation today. We have offices in Riverside and Palm Desert to assist you.