According to an article in NerdWallet, serving as executor of a loved one’s estate could be an honor that turns out to be more of a nightmare. The process of probate can take hundreds of hours, place you squarely in the middle of family dysfunction, and even expose you to lawsuits. Probate is an extremely time-consuming process, usually lasting at least 6-12 months for relatively simple estates, and a year or more for complex estates. A “complex” estate could be an estate with lots of creditors, extensive assets, assets that require appraisals, expensive or rare collectibles, or heirs that are bent on making the process contentious.
In some cases, assets are difficult to locate and inventory, or there can be significant properties that require constant management. An estate that is far from organized can take the executor months to sort through and prepare for probate. Since executors have a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of the estate, the best interests of those beneficiaries must always be a factor during the probate. Unfortunately, even honest mistakes can result in an executor being held legally liable.
If you have been designated as the executor of a loved one’s will and now must begin the probate process, it can be extremely beneficial to have an experienced probate attorney serving Petaluma in your corner. There will be many decisions you will have to make, paperwork to fill out, and court hearings to attend. You may be realizing that you have neither the time nor the necessary knowledge to handle probate on your own. Attorney Eric Gullotta from the Gullotta Law Group is ready to help you through the probate process, making it as easy and painless as possible.
About the Gullotta Law Group
Thinking about estate planning can cause you significant anxiety. Usually, what you imagine estate planning to be is much worse than what it actually turns out to be. Of course, nobody enjoys confronting their own mortality. That being said, there are ways that the process can be made much easier and much more comfortable by your probate attorney serving Petaluma. At the Gullotta Law Group, we know that you have many choices of estate planning law firms. We also believe that once you have spoken to attorney Eric Gullotta, your choice will be an easy one.
At the Gullotta Law Group, we want to make the estate planning process simple. While remaining entirely professional, our legal team is also able to make the process a bit light-hearted, and less stressful. Our fixed-fee approach encourages you to ask all the questions you have—and to have those questions answered in a comprehensive, yet easy-to-understand manner. We will determine what your goals and wishes are for your estate plan, then translate those into a highly tailored plan that you will be involved in creating from start to finish.
You may be surprised to find that attorney Eric Gullotta won’t tell you what you need. Eric will ask you a variety of questions that allow him to determine your current situation in life as well as how you want your assets to be distributed after your death and who you want to make medical and financial decisions for you in the event you were to become incapacitated. Once Eric has a full understanding of your wishes, he will translate those wishes into the legally binding documents that make up an estate plan.
You will work directly with attorney Eric Gullotta throughout the process, along with his highly skilled legal team. We believe strongly that direct, continuing contact with our clients allows us to provide exemplary estate planning services. When it comes to estate planning, you should leave nothing to chance. You need an advocate in your corner who can accurately look at the future and put together an estate plan that fully meets your needs and the needs of your loved ones. Eric Gullotta and the Gullotta Law Group can be your advocate throughout the process. Call (707) 204-3637 today.
Overview of Probate Areas Handled by the Gullotta Law Group
The issue of probate can be made easier by an experienced probate attorney serving Petaluma. Probate can first be addressed as you and your attorney put together a comprehensive estate plan that either minimizes probate for your loved ones or avoids it altogether. There are some situations that require a will, including for those with minor children to be able to name a guardian for the children. If this is your situation, your attorney can implement trusts, payable-on-death accounts, joint accounts, and designated beneficiaries for life insurance and retirement accounts to make probate as easy as possible for your loved ones.
If you’ve had an estate plan for a significant amount of time, your estate may not have been set up to make probate easy. If your loved ones are struggling after you pass with the demands of probate, Attorney Eric Gullotta can either guide them through the process or fully administer the probate. Finally, in some instances, beneficiaries may file lawsuits challenging the probate. The Gullotta Law Group can also engage in probate litigation in such situations.
What Is California Probate Court?
The California probate court provides the mechanism for the legal procedure an estate will go through following the death of an individual. Probate is always simpler when the decedent leaves a will or other estate planning documents that clearly define their wishes. These documents generally name beneficiaries for assets and an executor who is charged with probating the will and overseeing final wishes. A mindfully prepared estate plan makes life much simpler for those left behind. The loved ones of those who leave no will must still go through the probate process, but it is likely to be much more difficult.
A California probate court will authenticate your will if you have one, approve your executor, and then supervise the probate as the executor distributes your belongings and property. All your assets will be located, inventoried, and appraised when warranted. Taxes and debts will all be paid, and the remaining assets distributed according to your wishes. Probate can be a lengthy, expensive, public process that can benefit greatly from having help from an experienced probate attorney from the Gullotta Law Group.
Can Probate Be Avoided?
If you have not taken specific steps to avoid probate, then your estate will likely go through probate whether you have a will or die without a will. The following steps can help your loved ones avoid probate either partially, or completely:
- Name beneficiaries for life insurance policies.
- Place as many of your assets as possible in Living Trusts.
- Title property and assets (like bank accounts, real estate, retirement accounts, stocks, and vehicles) as payable on death or transfer on death, which allows those assets to bypass probate.
- Jointly title property with survivor’s rights which will allow them to automatically go to a survivor after you pass and avoid probate.
If an Individual Dies Without a Will, Does Probate Still Apply?
If you die without a will in the state of California, your assets must still be probated in accordance with the intestate succession laws of the state. These laws will at least attempt to distribute your property—aside from out-of-state real estate—to your next of kin. You may have issues with family members and would not want them to receive your assets. This is one of the primary reasons you should have a professionally prepared estate plan.
Following a death without a will or other estate planning document, the probate court will appoint an executor, who will follow the same probate process as if there were a will. If the decedent was married, the surviving spouse will be entitled to some or all of the assets and will need to file Form DE-221, California Spousal Property Petition with the probate court that describes the property in question and fully explains why it should be passed to the surviving spouse.
How a Probate Attorney Serving Petaluma From the Gullotta Law Group Can Help
The probate process may be rife with bumps and detours. Unless you have a comprehensive understanding of the process, it can be difficult to make the decisions you need to make without guidance from a probate attorney serving Petaluma. Attorney Eric Gullotta is a Certified Public Accountant with a master’s degree in taxation in addition to his law degree.
This training and experience allow Eric to understand the many tax issues involved in estate planning and probate cases that other attorneys might miss. When your probate attorney has this level of knowledge, you are able to pass more assets down to your heirs while reducing or eliminating estate taxes. Don’t wait—contact the Gullotta Law Group today.