Client Success Stories

We have been wanting to do it for awhile, but a trip out of the country propelled us to do it and stop procrastinating…. this was a great, easy process because of your sincerity, kindness and organization.  I loved how personable you are,...
-- Jeff & Faith F., Santa Ana

Need Probate?

Have you been told that you need “Letters Testamentary” in order to access your loved one’s accounts? Then that generally means that the institution you are dealing with needs legal documentation from the probate court.

Generally, a probate is required when the person who passes away holds title to assets in their name alone which have a cumulative value in excess of $100,000.

Typically, the following assets would NOT need to go through a probate: (1) Assets held in joint tenancy (if the remaining joint tenant is still alive); (2) Accounts held as “Pay on death” or “in Trust for” accounts; (3) Retirement accounts which pass to a living designated beneficiary; (4) Life Insurance proceeds which pass to a living designated beneficiary; and (5) Assets titled in a Trust. (more)


My loved one recently died: what legal steps do I need to take next?

imageThe very first step is to determine if the decedent had any type of estate plan in place (i.e., a Will or Living Trust). Then, an inventory of all the decedent’s assets will need to be made; a determination will need to be made as to how each asset will transfer and whether a probate will be necessary. A southern California trust and estate attorney who is knowledgeable in probate and trust matters should be contacted. If necessary, the attorney can prepare and file the necessary documents to open a probate of the decedent's estate or otherwise transfer decedent’s assets.

Probate can be an intimidating and overwhelming process. It is important to choose an attorney who can lift the burdens associated with the process during this difficult time.

Is a Probate Even Needed In My Situation?

In California, a probate is usually necessary when an individual dies leaving real property in excess of $20,000 or other assets in excess of $100,000 that do not pass via beneficiary designation, joint tenancy, or if such assets were not held in trust.

Under the following circumstances, a probate would not likely be necessary:

1. Decedent left an insurance policy with a death benefit payable to a living individual;
2. Decedent had bank or brokerage accounts held jointly with another living individual (if so, those accounts pass automatically to the other joint account holder);
3. Decedent owned a retirement account (IRA, 401k) which named a living individual as the beneficiary;
4. Decedent owned real property held in joint tenancy and the other owner(s) are living;

A probate would most likely be necessary under the following circumstances:

1. Decedent died with a bank or brokerage account held only in their name with a value over $100,000;
2. Decedent owned real property held only in their name;
3. Decedent owned a life insurance policy with a death benefit over $100,000 in which no beneficiary was named or where the named beneficiary had already died;
4. Decedent owned a retirement account (IRA, 401k) with a value over $100,000 and no beneficiary was named or the named beneficiary has already died;

Really, the best way to know for sure is to request an individualized Case Review here or contact us at 949.260.1400.

The Probate Process in California

The California Probate process can be broken into six basic steps: (1) Validation of the Will; (2) Appoint executor; (3) Inventory estate; (4) Pay claims against the estate; (5) Pay estate taxes; (6) Distribute remaining assets.

Each of these steps involve legal documentation and validation, as well as proper accountings. Also, the original will must be lodged in the proper court within 30 days of the date of death.

How Do I Choose the Right Attorney?

imageChoosing your probate or trust lawyer is one of the most important decisions you will make. And all attorneys are NOT the same – attorneys vary widely in their experience, their bed-side manner, and the customer care they offer through their staff and office organization.

It’s true that any California licensed attorney is able to handle any kind of case. But don't choose a lawyer who “dabbles” in probate or trusts and estates because these lawyers often blunder, and their cases often take longer than those handled by experienced probate lawyers.

You don’t have to use the attorney who prepared the Will – You need to be comfortable with the attorney you choose and confident that they are the right attorney to handle the job for you.

Request our E-Guide where you will discover how to choose the right estate attorney and the 3 questions you must ask before you hire anyone.

Could I Be Held Personally Liable For Making a Mistake as an Executor or Successor Trustee?

Being an Executor or Successor Trustee is a big responsibility. California law contains many complex legal rules and procedures that must be followed after someone dies. Also, there are certain deadlines that an Executor or Trustee must meet. If these rules are violated, the Executor or Trustee can be held personally liable for losses to the estate.

At Morgan Law Group we are very familiar with all of the legal rules and procedures governing these actions, and we assist our clients to ensure that that they carry out all of their obligations under the law and are duly protected.

Request our E-Guide where you will discover the 6 painful mistakes commonly made by Executors & Trustees and how to avoid them, here.