Probate courts hear cases involving decedent estates, trusts, conservatorships, powers of attorney, and similar matters. Our firm has appeared in probate court in hundreds of such cases on a wide array of matters.
“Probate” also refers to the court-supervised process that transfers legal title of property from a decedent’s estate to his or her beneficiaries. Absent prior arrangements for “non-probate” transfer of property after death, estates over a certain size must be transferred through probate.
These proceedings include, but are not limited to, steps to: prove that the will is valid; appoint a legal representative with authority to act on behalf of the decedent; identify and inventory the decedent’s property and have it appraised; pay debts and taxes, and distribute the remaining property.
In California, any fees charged by an attorney assisting the personal representative of a decedent’s estate must be approved in advance by the probate court. State law sets the amount of compensation for “ordinary services” by an attorney – based on a fixed part of the estate’s value – and additional compensation for “extraordinary services” may only be charged if allowed by the probate court.
We have substantial experience in contested probate estate matters. Litigation over probate estates can involve disputes over various issues, including:
- will contests based on, e.g., lack of capacity, undue influence, fraud, duress, coercion, lack of proper formalities, or bequests to disqualified beneficiaries (including caregivers and attorneys);
- beneficiary claims;
- accounting by executor;
- breach of a fiduciary duty;
- estate mismanagement;
- community property; and
- family disputes.
Estate litigation is subject to very strict time limits, so you should contact a probate attorney right away if you have a claim involving a decedent’s estate.
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