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The Top 5 Reasons for Probate Court

You may be wondering if you’ll need to go through the probate process. It’s one of the most common questions people have when a loved one passes away. Probate laws differ by state, so it’s important to discuss your unique circumstances with a reputable estate planning attorney. However, here are some of the top reasons for probate court to help you determine if it’s necessary in your case.

An Invalid Will

Probate court is necessary whenever a will is deemed invalid, but there are various reasons for why this occurs, such as the following examples…

  • Mental Incompetence: The deceased wasn’t mentally competent when the will was drafted, calling the document into question.
  • Improper Execution: The will was either unclear or not made legal.
  • Undue Influence: There’s speculation that the deceased was under duress when the will was revised or created.

No Will?

If there isn’t a will, the probate court is needed to sort out the deceased’s belongings. It’s a legal process to distribute assets and transfer titles of property. Unfortunately, there’s no other way to accomplish this.

Designated Beneficiaries

It’s common for beneficiaries to be named. For example, on retirement funds, or life insurance policies. However, if none were designated, or they’ve since died, probate is required.

Sole Ownership

When assets are owned solely by the deceased individual, probate court is generally required to transfer property to a beneficiary’s name.

Tenant in Common or Joint Tenancy

Another reason probate may be necessary is if assets were owned as either a tenant in common, or a joint tenancy. What this simply means is that the deceased owned property with someone, like in a common law marriage.

Our Probate Court Services

If any of these common reasons for probate apply to your personal situation, we can help. Or, for more information about probate and how to avoid it, please contact Lewman Law at (925) 447-1250.

Filed under Probate Tips, Uncategorized

Creating an Estate Plan During the Pandemic

The pandemic crisis is causing more people to consider their estate planning needs in this time of worldwide uncertainty. Alarmingly, America now has more active cases of COVID-19 than any other nation. Symptoms remain mild for most people. But our lives have been disrupted in a way that has forced us to collectively consider our own mortality. The following are some thoughts on the importance of having an estate plan during this global emergency.

Why it Matters

Everyone’s situation is unique, but planning ahead offers all of us more peace of mind. Each state has its own intestacy laws, which determine who receives your property in the absence of an estate plan. Essentially, if you don’t leave behind a will, the state makes one for you.

Maybe you live with a partner but choose to remain unmarried, or you have children from a previous relationship. Family dynamics are often complex. Unfortunately, without legal documentation, it’s highly unlikely your wishes would be fulfilled if you were to become suddenly sick during the pandemic.

Also, keep in mind that states have separate execution requirements. For example, does your state require one or two witnesses? Can documents legally be notarized online?

Other Documents for Pandemic Preparation

Of particular importance during the pandemic are documents that go into effect while you’re still alive, such as a health care surrogate, living will, or power of attorney.

Most people understand a POA authorizes someone to act on your behalf. A health care surrogate is similar in that it appoints someone to make health care decisions for you if you’re no longer able to choose for yourself. Sadly, this is a critical aspect of estate planning, especially now because many people are intubated during treatment for COVID-19.

How We Can Help During the Pandemic

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed right now. No one quite knows what to expect, and the news changes by the hour. But it’s better to have some kind of plan in place, rather than no plan at all. It can always be revised as circumstances evolve. Stay safe, and for help getting your documents in order, please contact our office at (925) 447-1250.

Filed under Estate Planning Tips