Probate Administration

Perhaps you have heard the term “probate” but wonder what it means? Basically, probate is a court process that supervises the transfer of assets from a person who has passed away to the new lawful owners. Probate in California is generally a time-consuming, frustrating and needlessly expensive process. It takes, on average, nine months to complete. In complicated or disputed cases, the process can go on for considerably longer, even several years.

Much of our practice at the Law Offices of Esther Hopkins, P.C. is devoted to helping clients avoid probate through the use of trusts and other estate planning tools. However, families often hire us to assist them with navigating the California probate process. While every probate is different, here is a partial list of the responsibilities involved in “typical” probate.

•    Locate and file the decedent’s will (if he or she had one) with the local court
•    File necessary probate documents with the court
•    Locate, inventory, custody, close and transfer personal assets and accounts
•    Appraise and determine the value of all assets
•    Ascertain, and then notify, all known creditors of the estate
•    Make payments to creditors, discharge the decedent’s obligations and obtain creditor releases
•    Process and obtain life insurance death benefits, if any
•    Secure the decedent’s residence and tangible personal property
•    File tax returns (federal and California) and make appropriate tax elections
•    Pay estate taxes and final personal income taxes, if any
•    Obtain tax releases and closing letters from the IRS, local courts and state taxing authorities
•    Make specific bequests, together with partial and final distributions, to beneficiaries.
•    Provide detailed accounting to beneficiaries and the local court

Accomplishing all of this is difficult enough without the grief that accompanies the loss of your loved one. If you are responsible for probating a loved one’s estate, you are not alone. The Law Offices of Esther Hopkins, P.C. can guide you through the probate administration process from beginning to end, and make it as stress-free as possible.

Probate Litigation

While many probate matters are resolved amicably in the probate administration process, some cases result in disputes leading to litigation. Did you know that more lawsuits are filed in the United States than the rest of the world combined? We live in a highly litigious society, and sadly, family members sue one another far more frequently than you might imagine. What might start out as a minor disagreement over who gets Mom’s favorite lamp or chair can quickly turn into a heated quarrel, family feud and ultimately a lawsuit that tears the family apart for years to come, sometimes irreparably. The skilled and knowledgeable litigation attorneys at the Law Offices of Esther Hopkins, P.C. can guide you through the complex and stressful probate and estate litigation process.

Our probate litigation attorneys represent beneficiaries, administrators and corporations in various probate matters involving:

•    Will contests
•    Breaches of fiduciary duties
•    Beneficiary claims
•    Family disputes
•    Claims related to fraud, duress, undue influence, coercion and lack of capacity
•    Probate accounts

If you are involved in a dispute related to probate or estate administration and you need to know your rights, duties and obligations, we invite you to call our Westlake Village probate attorneys at your earliest convenience to schedule a personal meeting.