PROBATE, ESTATE PLANNING, POST DEATH ADMINISTRATON
ABOUT BIDWELL LAW
The essence of the law I practice is the transfer of assets from a person who has died to his or her heirs. Common terms for this type of law are estate planning, trusts, wills and probate. This area of law has two major components, transactional law and civil law.
Transactional law is the accurate and competent preparation of legal documents. Examples of legal documents are trusts, wills, deeds, affidavits and forms needed for probate administration. These documents preserve assets and build wealth.
For transactional legal documents, I provide a fixed price quote at our first meeting. This alleviates the concern about excessive attorney costs. You can either accept the quote or shop around for a better price.
Civil law is litigation. Litigation is most often between relatives over assets. Litigants want justice, fairness and quick resolution. Often a litigant’s motivation is desperation or the desire to punish.
A trust is a plan. The plan avoids probate and provides for the orderly transfer of assets to heirs at a minimum cost, time and effort.
In California a trust is often referred to as “revocable trust.” A revocable trust is a trust that the person who creates it, generally called the settlor, can revoke during the person’s lifetime. Revocation restores the person to where he or she was before the trust was created.
A revocable trust can also be amended or restated. Amendment can change just one sentence or many paragraphs. Restatement changes the entire trust document. Only the name of the trust remains the same in a restatement.
The post death transfer of assets is under the supervision of the Superior Court of California. The California laws that govern the process are tilted “probate.” Cases are filed in probate court. The transfer of title for real estate property will take over one year and is open to the public.
Probate administration is procedural in nature. A petition is filed. Heirs are noticed in writing. The public is noticed by publication in a newspaper. A bond is obtained. Letters of administration are issued. Assets are marshaled and sold. An accounting of all actions and transactions is made to the court. A court order for distribution is obtained and the probate closed.
The cost in legal fees and court costs is about 5% of assets transferred. Legal representation saves time and effort. The amount of fees an attorney is paid is fixed by California law based on total assets. Legal fees are not paid until the probate is closed and then, only by court order.