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Why should probate be avoided?

Ask the LDA

Series: Probate | Story 1

The cost is the worst part of a probate. When property passes through full probate, the estate will incur attorney's fees, court costs and potentially other expenses, all of which can be quite substantial depending on the size and nature of your estate.

Attorney fees are generally set by state law and are usually based on the market value of the assets in the estate being probated, exclusive of any debts or loans associated with the asset. If you own real estate in California or your estate value is greater than $185,000, attorney fees could be $9,000 on an estate valued at $300,000. Other expenses might include Executor's fees in the same amount, appraisals and other expenses.

The second worst part is the time it takes. In California, a probate can be completed in nine months, but that is VERY rare. Realistically, 18 months is more the average. Although in more complicated cases it can take up to two years. It is time-consuming because the executor/administrator must be incredibly careful when examining all bank statements, tax returns and other documents to make sure the decedent's assets are properly identified. This tedious process involves a great deal of paperwork and careful adherence to deadlines.

Other factors that can delay a probate is if there are a lot of beneficiaries. In some cases, the duties involved in locating documents and handling the decedent's outstanding debts smoothly, only to be complicated later by the number of beneficiaries the individual left assets in the will. Communication with various individuals, especially when they are not local to the area, can slow the process down.

Additionally, when there are more beneficiaries, there is a greater likelihood that someone will dispute/contest the will or the way the estate is being administered. When one of the beneficiaries decides to hire their own attorney to monitor probate administration, it further slows the process. If their attorney finds anything they feel is wrong, they may file a motion requiring the court's approval before the process may go any further.

Diana Wade is a Legal Document Assistant. She can be reached at (661) 821-0494 or [email protected]. Diana is not an attorney; she can only provide self-help services at your specific direction. Kern County LDA #185, ex 4/11/25.