Decedent Estate Administration

Contesting a California Will

Person contesting a Will must have legal standing, typically a spouse of child cut out of a will or a child who receives a disproportionate share; a child who fees a donation to a local charity was improper; a beneficiary who was treated more favorably in a previous Will.

Examples of challenges to a Will:

  • The presence of a later Will, which if validated would replace an existing Will.

  • Challenging mental competency at the time of a Will.

  • Alleging the Will was the result of fraud, undue influence or a mistake.
  • Witness to the Will is a named beneficiary.
  • Will is invalid for other reasons, such as an existing contract.

Administering the estate of a deceased loved one is often a complicated process best undertaken with the guidance of an experienced probate attorney.

At Howard Law, our comprehensive approach to the legal representation of our clients - which includes thriving legal departments handling estate planning, business litigation, personal injury and criminal law - offers significant advantages to dealing with the many challenges that often arise during the administration of an estate.

While estate planning -- including Living Trusts, a Will, and tax planning -- can provide invaluable assistance when it comes time to settle an estate, seeking qualified legal representation can help protect your rights and the financial well-being of you and your family. While certain types of trust arrangements, like a Living Trust, can bypass the probate court process, most estates will be settled through probate court. Even estates involving a living trust will often enter the probate process to distribute assets held outside of the trust.

In cases where no Will exists, assets are distributed in accordance with state law. In general relatives will be identified beginning with immediate family such as a spouse of children, and then proceeding outward to parents, siblings, aunts and uncles, and nieces and nephews.

Certain property is exempt from the probate process, including some estates valued at less than $100,000, as well as property held jointly with a spouse, including certain property, life insurance and retirement benefits.

While many people mistakenly think settling an estate is simply a matter of reading a Will and dividing up the proceeds, probate proceedings can encompass virtually every area of law, including real estate law, custody law, civil law, tax law, issues involving appraisals and consumer debt, business litigation and even criminal law.

In Probate Court, the court will supervise the process to transferring a decedent's property to his or her beneficiaries. Typically, steps in the process include proving the validity of the Will; appointing a legal representative to act on behalf of the deceased; identifying and appraising estate property; paying debt and taxes, and distributing the proceeds of the estate to a decedent's heirs and/or beneficiaries.

Generally, estates settled in California probate courts are required to be concluded within 12 to 18 months and the costs, including appraisal costs and court fees, can total between 4 and 7 percent of an estate. In cases where a Will is contested, thousands of dollars of litigation fees may be incurred and the process may take considerably longer.

During the probate process, taxes will also be finalized, including a decedent's final income tax return and any estate taxes that may be due. Additionally, creditors will have a certain amount of time to file a claim against an estate, and debts will generally be paid before the final proceeds of an estate are dispersed.

The Los Angeles estate administration attorneys at Howard Law believe that everyone facing an estate settlement in probate court deserves easy access to high-quality legal advice. Contact our office today for a confidential appointment to discuss your rights in Los Angeles or the surrounding areas, including Santa Ana, Riverside and Anaheim.

CALIFORNIA ESTATE ADMINISTRATION - Call (800) 872-5925 - Howard Law