Upon the death of a family member, if often falls upon a family member or friend to locate bank accounts and other assets, deal with creditors, pay debts, and distribute the remaining assets.
The winding up of a person’s affairs upon death is generally called estate administration. It can involve a will, a trust, or some other document. A trust or will most often names a fiduciary (trustee or executor) and provides an initial roadmap to the post-death proceedings. However, this document is only the beginning and it is advisable to seek legal advice early.
The named trustee may be someone who has never had to administer an estate or face the challenges presented. Often there is minimal court guidance or oversight in trust administration, unless sought by the trustee or a beneficiary. Early consultation with an experienced probate attorney will help the trustee to avoid missteps, delays, or costly mistakes.
If a will is involved, a court “probate” proceeding will be required unless the estate is small. The court will authenticate the will and appoint the executor to carry out the estate administration. The executor will be obligated to follow the rules and timelines established by the law and to keep the beneficiaries well informed.
If a family member dies without leaving any instructions (no will or trust), a probate proceeding is nevertheless required in most cases. The court will appoint an administrator, most often a family member or friend, who then must follow the appropriate procedures from start to finish.
In the various estate proceedings, the California Probate Code sets the framework. Each type of proceeding has its own particular rules, covering everything from creditor issues to how an attorney hired by the trustee or executor may be paid.
The attorneys at Poling & Poling have the experience to advise fiduciaries in all types of estate administration – trust, will, intestate succession, or any of the other lesser-known alternatives. Choosing the right attorney is often the difference between a successful outcome and the alternative.