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Probate & Trust Specialist

Your Trusted Guide Through California's Probate & Trust Process

William "Rod" Hooks

William "Rod" Hooks

Probate & Trust Specialist

Jennifer Stigelmayer

Jennifer Stigelmayer

Senior & Probate Specialist

Unlock the secrets to a seamless probate:
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SERVICES

Committed to excellence

We specialize in navigating the intricate legal landscapes of probate and trust matters in California, ensuring your rights are protected and processes are handled efficiently. Our expertise and dedication are at your service.

Support Services

We offer full support for probate and trust sales, steamlining every step. From finding housing and aiding in family relocation to arranging repairs and maintenance through our trusted network of contractors, we've got you covered.

We provide tailored solutions for your needs, whether you seek traditional real estate guidance, quick cash offers, or estate asset maximization through professional estate sales. Count on our experienced team to support you at every step.

Reduce Stress & Save Time
  • Having extensive knowledge of: wills, trusts, conservatorships and estate settlements.

  • Coordinating with attorneys, professional fiduciaries, heirs and beneficiaries.

  • Minimizing disputes between heirs and/or beneficiaries

  • Ensuring legal requirements are met when selling a home in probate.

We Guide & Assist With
  • Preparing and negotiating probate sales contracts.

  • Ensuring necessary repairs are made - and the property is in proper condition to be put on the market.

  • Coordinating with escrow officers, buyer's agents, lenders, appraisers, vendors - and schedule showings.

  • Monitoring escrow and legal deadlines - and making sure they are not missed.

Simplify the Process By
  • Recommending vendors such as: probate lawyers, accountants, contractors, inspectors.

  • Anticipating selling pitfalls - or mistakes to avoid when selling a property in probate.

  • Preparing, monitoring and maintaining vacant property.

  • Foreseeing problems that may arise when selling a home in probate

Why Choose Us

Discover our comprehensive probate sales support. From preparing and negotiating contracts to coordinating with various stakeholders and vendors, we ensure a smooth process. Anticipating pitfalls and overseeing property maintenance, we provide proactive solutions to streamline your probate property sale.

Gregory Barksdale

Administrator, CA

Rod and Jenn's knowledge of probate and business contacts were a tremendous help in settling my father’s estate.  They are straight shooters and people you can trust.

Betty Kiernan

Administrator, CA

I live out of state and needed someone I could trust. Rod and Jenn provided me with solid real estate advice — and really understood the Probate process and how it applied to my family’s estate.

Aaron Curtis

Executor, Texas

MyProbatePal listed my son’s home and within a just a few days — had three offers. 

I couldn’t have done it without their business contacts and knowledge of Probate.

FAQ

Your questions, answered

  • What is probate, and when is it required in California?
    Probate is the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person, resolving any claims and distributing the deceased's assets under the supervision of the court. From a personal perspective, imagine: After a lifetime of hard work — you file a lawsuit against yourself, using your own money, all for the benefit of your creditors. Then, whatever assets remain are distributed to your family members according to government guidelines.
  • How long does the probate process typically take in California?
    The duration of the probate process in California varies depending on various factors, including the complexity of the estate, any disputes among heirs, and court scheduling. Typically, an uncontested probate proceeding can take around 9 to 12 months to complete. However, more complex cases or those involving disputes may extend the process to several years. Working with an experienced probate specialist can help streamline the process and mitigate delays.
  • How much does a probate cost?
    Typically probate expenses range from 5% to 8% of the estates gross value (this sum does not reflect any estate or income taxes that the deceased may have due). Probate expenses include, but are not limited to: Court fees (are paid directly to the court) Legal fees (set by the CA Legislator) Personal Representative fees (set by the CA Legislator) Extraordinary fees (must be approved by the court) Accounting fees (CPA) Probate Referee/Appraisal fee (1/10 of 1% paid by the estate) Miscellaneous fees (for example the sale of a home) Pro-Tip: Attorney and Personal Representative fee structures are identical (PC 10800). The Personal Representative has the option to accept or decline the fee. Fee structure: Estate Value Compensation First $100,000 - 4% Next $100,000 - 3% Next $800,000 - 2% Next $9 million - 1% Next 15 million - 0.5%
  • What are some common options for splitting an inherited home?
    Selling the home: Easiest solution is generally to sell the house and divide the proceeds. Buyout: One sibling can offer to purchase the other siblings shared interest. A sibling would need to qualify for a loan (or have the cash on-hand) to buyout the other siblings equity. Private Arrangement: Siblings can swap assets of equal value One sibling can finance the transaction using a promissory note One sibling can rent for the other sibling to pay off equity owed Partition Action: As final option. If an amicable agreement cannot be reached, a lawsuit maybe filed (independent of your probate case) requesting a judge to mandate the sale of the home and terminate co-ownership. Note: A court supervisor will be required, control of the assets will be relinquished — and a court mediator will be appointed to oversee the sale of the home.
  • What are the advantages of accepting cash offers for estate properties?
    Accepting cash offers for estate properties offers several advantages: Quick Sale: Cash offers typically result in faster transactions, as there is no need for mortgage approval or financing contingencies, allowing for a quicker closing process. Certainty: Cash offers are less likely to fall through compared to offers contingent on financing, reducing the risk of delays or complications during the sale process. Simplicity: Cash transactions are often simpler and involve fewer steps, reducing paperwork and administrative burdens for the estate executor or administrator. Competitive Advantage: Cash offers may be more attractive to sellers, potentially leading to multiple offers and a higher sale price for the property. Flexibility: Cash buyers may be more willing to accommodate the seller's timeline and preferences, providing greater flexibility in scheduling closing dates or leaseback arrangements. Overall, accepting cash offers for estate properties can streamline the sales process, minimize risk, and maximize the return on investment for the estate beneficiaries or heirs.
  • What steps are involved in preparing a property for sale during probate?
    Preparing a property for sale during probate involves several key steps: Assessment: Evaluate the condition of the property and identify any necessary repairs or improvements. Cleanout: Remove personal belongings and clutter from the property to present it in its best light. Repairs: Address any maintenance issues, such as plumbing leaks, electrical problems, or structural issues, to make the property more marketable. Staging: Stage the property to enhance its appeal to potential buyers, including decluttering, furniture arrangement, and decor updates. Photography: Hire a professional photographer to capture high-quality images of the property for marketing purposes. Marketing: Develop a comprehensive marketing plan to attract potential buyers, including online listings, signage, open houses, and targeted advertising. Disclosure: Provide full disclosure of any known defects or issues with the property to potential buyers to comply with legal requirements and minimize liability. Negotiation: Review and negotiate offers with potential buyers to achieve the best possible sale price for the property. Closing: Complete the necessary paperwork and facilitate the closing process to finalize the sale of the property. By following these steps and working with a qualified probate real estate specialist, you can prepare the property for sale during probate and maximize its market value.
  • Do all assets have to go through probate?
    In California, assets that go through probate are generally those solely owned by the decedent — and do not have a designated beneficiary or transfer-on-death (TOD) or pay-on-death (POD) provision. Some common assets that are probated are: Real estate held solely by the deceased Bank accounts held solely by the deceased w/out payable-on-death (POD) or transfer on-death (TOD) beneficiaries. Investment accounts held solely by the deceased with POD or TOD beneficiaries Personal property, such as vehicles, jewelry, and artwork solely owned the deceased Business interest held solely by the deceased Any assets not held in a living trust or designated beneficiaries Some common assets that are NOT generally probated are: Assets held in a living trust Retirement accounts with designated beneficiaries, such as IRAs and 401(K)s Live insurance polices with designated beneficiaries Bank accounts with POD or TOD beneficiaries Bank accounts jointly Property held in joint tenancy w/rights of survivorship or community property w/right of survivorship Property held in a trust
  • What constitutes extraordinary fee(s)
    For personal representatives: Selling, leasing, exchanging, financing, or foreclosing real or personal property Carrying on decedent’s business if necessary to preserve the estate or under court order Preparing tax returns Handling audits or litigation connected with tax liabilities of the decedent or of the estate. For attorneys: Legal services in connection with the sale of property held in the estate Services to secure a loan to pay estate debts Litigation undertaken to benefit the estate or to protect its interest Defense of the personal representative’s account Defense of a will contested after its admission to probate Successful defense of a will contested before its admission to probate Successful defense of a personal representative in a removal proceeding Extraordinary efforts to locate estate assets Litigation in support of an attorney’s request for extraordinary compensation, where prior compensation awards are not adequate compensation under all the circumstances Coordination of ancillary administration Accounting for a deceased, incapacitated, or absconded personal representative
  • What are the advantages of working with a Certified Probate & Trust Specialist?
    Working with a Certified Probate & Trust Specialist offers several advantages: Expertise: A Certified Specialist has undergone specialized training and has in-depth knowledge of probate and trust laws, procedures, and best practices. Experience: With extensive experience in handling probate and trust matters, a Certified Specialist can navigate the complexities of the process efficiently and effectively. Guidance: A Certified Specialist can provide personalized guidance tailored to your unique situation, ensuring that your interests are protected and your objectives are met. Efficiency: By working with a Certified Specialist, you can streamline the probate or trust administration process, saving time and minimizing delays. Peace of Mind: Knowing that you have a qualified and experienced professional handling your probate or trust matters can provide peace of mind during a challenging time. Overall, working with a Certified Probate & Trust Specialist can help alleviate stress, minimize errors, and ensure a successful outcome for your probate or trust administration needs.
  • What are some common mistakes when navigating probate in California?
    Here are some common mistakes when navigating probate in CA: Not properly communicating with family members or beneficiaries Purposely leaving out family members or beneficiaries Not dealing with holdovers living in estate property Not securing estate assets in a timely manner Distributing estate assets prematurely Failing to obtain professional appraisals Incomplete or incorrect paperwork Not meeting or unaware of court timelines Not seeking legal advise
  • How can I sell a property during probate or trust administration?
    Selling a property during probate or trust administration involves several steps: Obtain Court Approval: If the property is subject to probate, you'll need court approval to sell it. For trust administration, the successor trustee has the authority to sell trust assets. Appraise the Property: Obtain a professional appraisal to determine the fair market value of the property. Prepare the Property: Make any necessary repairs or enhancements to improve the property's marketability. List the Property: Hire a real estate agent experienced in probate or trust sales to list the property on the market. Market the Property: Advertise the property to attract potential buyers, including staging, professional photography, and online listings. Accept Offers: Review and negotiate offers with potential buyers. For probate sales, the court may require a higher bid over the appraised value. Court Confirmation (Probate Only): If required by the court, obtain confirmation of the sale before proceeding. Close the Sale: Once an offer is accepted, complete the necessary paperwork, and close the sale, transferring ownership to the buyer. Throughout the process, it's essential to comply with all legal requirements and seek guidance from a qualified probate or trust specialist to ensure a smooth and successful property sale.
  • What is the difference between probate and trust administration?
    Probate and trust administration are both legal processes for managing and distributing assets after someone passes away, but they have some key differences. Probate is a court-supervised process where the deceased person's assets are identified, debts settled, and remaining assets distributed to heirs or beneficiaries according to the terms of the will or California intestacy laws if there is no will. This process typically involves court oversight and can be time-consuming and costly. On the other hand, trust administration occurs outside of court and involves managing and distributing assets held in a trust after the trust creator's passing. Because assets held in a trust bypass probate, trust administration is often quicker, more private, and less expensive than probate. The successor trustee, named in the trust document, oversees the administration process and ensures that assets are distributed according to the trust's terms. In summary, probate is a court-supervised process for managing assets subject to probate, while trust administration involves managing assets held in a trust outside of court.
  • What are the duties of a Personal Representative during probate?
    The Personal Representative, also known as the executor or administrator, plays a crucial role in probate proceedings in California. Their duties include: Managing Estate Assets: The Personal Representative is responsible for safeguarding and managing the deceased's assets during the probate process. Notifying Creditors and Beneficiaries: They must notify creditors of the estate and ensure that debts are paid off using estate funds before distributing assets to beneficiaries. Filing Court Documents: The Personal Representative is responsible for filing necessary court documents, including the petition for probate and inventory of estate assets. Communicating with Heirs: They must keep heirs informed about the progress of the probate proceedings and any important decisions regarding the estate. Distributing Assets: Once debts and taxes are paid, the Personal Representative distributes the remaining assets to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the will or California intestacy laws if there is no will. Closing the Estate: After all tasks are completed, the Personal Representative files a final accounting with the court and obtains a court order to close the estate. Overall, the Personal Representative has a fiduciary duty to act in the best interests of the estate and its beneficiaries throughout the probate process.
  • Can I avoid probate in California if there is a trust in place?
    Yes, having a trust in place can help avoid probate in California. Assets held in a trust are not subject to the probate process, as they pass directly to the beneficiaries named in the trust document upon the trust creator's passing. This allows for a more streamlined and private transfer of assets outside of the probate court. However, it's essential to properly fund the trust by transferring ownership of assets into the trust's name to ensure they bypass probate. Consulting with a qualified estate planning attorney can help determine the best approach for your specific circumstances.
  • How do you handle disputes among heirs during probate or trust administration?
    Handling disputes among heirs during probate or trust administration involves several key steps: Communication: Encourage open and honest communication among all parties involved to identify and address any underlying issues or concerns. Mediation: Consider engaging a mediator or third-party facilitator to help facilitate discussions and negotiations between heirs and work towards resolving disputes amicably. Legal Guidance: Seek advice from a qualified probate attorney who can provide legal guidance and assistance in navigating complex legal issues and resolving disputes according to California probate and trust laws. Compromise: Encourage heirs to consider potential compromises or solutions that can accommodate everyone's interests and concerns, while also ensuring the fair distribution of assets. Documentation: Keep thorough documentation of all communications, agreements, and decisions reached during the dispute resolution process to ensure clarity and accountability. Court Intervention: As a last resort, if disputes cannot be resolved through mediation or negotiation, heirs may need to seek court intervention to address the issues and make decisions regarding the distribution of assets. By taking proactive measures to address disputes among heirs and seeking appropriate legal guidance, you can minimize conflicts and ensure a smoother probate or trust administration process for everyone involved.
  • What is the process for buying a home in California?
    The process for buying a home in California typically involves several key steps: Get Pre-Approved: Start by getting pre-approved for a mortgage to determine your budget and show sellers that you're a serious buyer. Find a Real Estate Agent: Work with a local real estate agent who is familiar with the California market and can help you find homes that meet your criteria. Search for Homes: Begin your search for homes in California, either online or with the assistance of your real estate agent, considering factors such as location, size, and price. View Properties: Visit properties that meet your criteria to get a better sense of their condition and suitability for your needs. Make an Offer: Once you find a home you like, work with your real estate agent to submit an offer to the seller, including details such as price, contingencies, and desired closing date. Negotiate: Negotiate with the seller to reach an agreement on price and other terms of the sale. Home Inspection: Conduct a home inspection to identify any potential issues with the property that may need to be addressed before closing. Appraisal: Your lender will order an appraisal to determine the fair market value of the home and ensure it meets their lending criteria. Finalize Financing: Finalize your mortgage financing and complete any additional paperwork required by your lender. Closing: Attend the closing meeting to sign the final paperwork and officially take ownership of the home. Throughout the process, it's essential to work closely with your real estate agent, lender, and other professionals to ensure a smooth and successful home buying experience.
  • How can I determine the value of my home?
    Determining the value of your home involves several key steps: Online Tools: Utilize online valuation tools and websites to get an initial estimate of your home's value based on recent sales data and market trends in your area. Comparable Sales: Research recent sales of similar homes (comparables) in your neighborhood to get an idea of what similar properties are selling for. Appraisal: Hire a professional appraiser to conduct a thorough assessment of your home's value based on factors such as size, condition, location, and amenities. Real Estate Agent: Consult with a local real estate agent who has experience in your area and can provide a comparative market analysis (CMA) to determine a realistic listing price for your home. Market Conditions: Consider the current real estate market conditions, such as supply and demand, interest rates, and economic factors, which can influence the value of your home. Home Improvements: Take into account any upgrades or renovations you've made to your home, as these can increase its value. Local Factors: Consider local factors such as school district quality, proximity to amenities, and neighborhood desirability, which can impact your home's value. By combining these methods and considering various factors, you can obtain a comprehensive understanding of your home's value and make informed decisions when it comes to selling or refinancing.
  • What are the steps involved in selling a home in California?
    Selling a home in California involves several key steps: Preparation: Prepare your home for sale by decluttering, cleaning, and making any necessary repairs or improvements to enhance its appeal to potential buyers. Pricing: Determine the appropriate listing price for your home based on market conditions, comparable sales in your area, and the advice of a local real estate agent. Listing: Work with a real estate agent to list your home on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and other online platforms to reach a wide audience of potential buyers. Marketing: Implement a comprehensive marketing plan to promote your home, including professional photography, virtual tours, open houses, and targeted advertising. Showings: Allow prospective buyers to view your home through scheduled showings and open houses, providing them with information about its features and amenities. Offers: Evaluate offers from potential buyers, considering factors such as price, contingencies, and financing terms, and negotiate to reach an agreement that works for both parties. Escrow: Once an offer is accepted, enter into escrow, where a neutral third party holds funds and coordinates the closing process. Inspections: Allow the buyer to conduct inspections of your home to identify any issues that may need to be addressed before closing. Appraisal: The buyer's lender will order an appraisal to determine the fair market value of your home and ensure it meets their lending criteria. Closing: Attend the closing meeting to sign the final paperwork and transfer ownership of the property to the buyer, receiving payment for the sale of your home. Throughout the process, it's essential to work closely with your real estate agent, legal professionals, and other professionals to ensure a smooth and successful home selling experience.
  • How long does it typically take to sell a home in California?
    The time it takes to sell a home in California can vary depending on several factors, including the local real estate market conditions, the property's location, condition, and pricing strategy. On average, homes in California typically sell within 30 to 60 days from the time they are listed on the market. However, some homes may sell more quickly, especially in hot seller's markets with high demand and low inventory, while others may take longer to sell, particularly in slower markets or if there are issues with the property. Working with a knowledgeable real estate agent who understands the local market can help you navigate the selling process and optimize the timing of your home sale.
  • What are the advantages of working with a local real estate agent?
    Working with a local real estate agent offers several advantages: Market Knowledge: Local agents have a deep understanding of the local real estate market, including neighborhood trends, pricing dynamics, and market conditions, allowing them to provide valuable insights and guidance throughout the buying or selling process. Network: Local agents have an extensive network of contacts, including other real estate professionals, potential buyers or sellers, lenders, contractors, and service providers, which can be invaluable when navigating the complexities of a real estate transaction. Personalized Service: Local agents offer personalized service and attention to their clients, taking the time to understand their unique needs, preferences, and goals and tailor their approach accordingly, ensuring a smooth and successful real estate experience. Local Expertise: Local agents are familiar with local zoning laws, regulations, school districts, amenities, and other factors that can impact property values and desirability, allowing them to provide informed advice and guidance to their clients. Negotiation Skills: Local agents have strong negotiation skills honed through their experience in the local market, allowing them to advocate effectively on behalf of their clients and achieve the best possible outcomes in negotiations. Support: Local agents provide ongoing support and guidance to their clients throughout the entire real estate transaction, from the initial consultation to closing and beyond, ensuring a positive and stress-free experience. Overall, working with a local real estate agent can provide numerous benefits, including market expertise, networking opportunities, personalized service, and support, making them an invaluable asset to anyone buying or selling property in their local area.
  • What are the closing costs when buying a home in California?
    The closing costs associated with buying a home in California typically include: Loan Fees: Fees charged by the lender for processing and underwriting the mortgage, including origination fees, application fees, and points. Appraisal Fee: The cost of having a professional appraiser assess the value of the property to ensure it meets the lender's requirements. Home Inspection: The cost of hiring a licensed home inspector to evaluate the condition of the property and identify any potential issues or defects. Title Insurance: Insurance that protects the buyer and lender against any defects or disputes related to the property's title, ensuring a clear and marketable title. Escrow Fees: Fees charged by the escrow company for handling the closing process, including preparing documents, holding funds, and facilitating the transfer of ownership. Recording Fees: Fees charged by the county recorder's office for recording the deed and other legal documents related to the property transfer. Property Taxes: Prorated property taxes for the portion of the year the buyer will own the property, typically paid upfront at closing. HOA Fees: Prorated homeowner association fees for the portion of the year the buyer will own the property, if applicable. Prepaid Expenses: Prepaid expenses such as prepaid interest, homeowners insurance premiums, and mortgage insurance premiums, required by the lender. Miscellaneous Fees: Other miscellaneous fees and charges, such as courier fees, document preparation fees, and wire transfer fees. It's essential to review your loan estimate and closing disclosure provided by your lender to understand the specific closing costs associated with your home purchase in California and budget accordingly. Working with a knowledgeable real estate agent can also help you navigate the closing process and ensure a smooth and successful transaction.
  • What is the process for making an offer on a home in California?
    The process for making an offer on a home in California typically involves several key steps: Preparation: Before making an offer, it's essential to get pre-approved for a mortgage to determine your budget and show sellers that you're a serious buyer. Consultation: Work with your real estate agent to discuss your needs, preferences, and budget, and to determine a strategic approach for making an offer on a home. Research: Research comparable sales (comps) and market trends in the area to determine a competitive offer price for the home you're interested in. Drafting the Offer: Your real estate agent will prepare a written offer that includes details such as the offer price, earnest money deposit, contingencies, and proposed closing date. Submission: Submit your offer to the seller's listing agent, along with any supporting documents or disclosures required by California law. Negotiation: The seller may accept your offer, reject it, or counter with a different offer. Negotiate with the seller or their agent to reach an agreement on price and other terms of the sale. Acceptance: Once both parties have agreed to the terms of the offer, the seller will accept your offer in writing, and the property will go into escrow. Escrow: Enter into escrow, where a neutral third party holds funds and coordinates the closing process, including inspections, appraisals, and the transfer of ownership. Due Diligence: Conduct inspections and perform due diligence on the property to ensure there are no undisclosed issues or defects that could affect the sale. Closing: Attend the closing meeting to sign the final paperwork and officially purchase the home, receiving keys and ownership of the property. Throughout the process, it's essential to work closely with your real estate agent and legal professionals to ensure a smooth and successful transaction.
  • What are the steps involved in getting pre-approved for a mortgage in California?
    Getting pre-approved for a mortgage in California involves several key steps: Gather Documents: Gather the necessary financial documents, including pay stubs, W-2s or 1099s, tax returns, bank statements, and other proof of income and assets. Check Credit Score: Check your credit score and review your credit report to ensure it is accurate and free of errors. A higher credit score can improve your chances of getting pre-approved and securing favorable loan terms. Find a Lender: Research and compare mortgage lenders in California to find one that offers competitive rates and terms, and that specializes in the type of loan you're interested in (e.g., conventional, FHA, VA). Complete Application: Complete a mortgage application with your chosen lender, providing information about your income, assets, debts, and employment history. Provide Documentation: Submit the required financial documents to your lender for verification, including pay stubs, tax returns, bank statements, and any other documentation requested. Credit Check: Your lender will pull your credit report and review your credit history and score as part of the pre-approval process. Underwriting: Your lender will review your application and documentation and verify your financial information to determine whether you qualify for a mortgage and how much you can borrow. Receive Pre-Approval: If you meet the lender's criteria, you will receive a pre-approval letter indicating the maximum loan amount you're eligible for, which you can use to demonstrate your financial strength to sellers when making an offer on a home. Shop for Homes: Armed with your pre-approval letter, you can start shopping for homes in California within your price range, knowing that you have already been pre-approved for financing. Finalize Loan: Once you find a home and have an accepted offer, work with your lender to finalize your mortgage loan, including completing any additional documentation and securing a loan commitment. By following these steps and working with a reputable lender, you can get pre-approved for a mortgage in California and be well-positioned to make an offer on your dream home.

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