While there is no state that requires that you use an attorney to probate an estate, probate can be extremely complicated and most people opt to use one. Probate can be complicated and consequences can be harsh if you do something wrong, whether it's one minor omission or a missed deadline. Something as simple as failing to send a copy of the petition can cause the probate process to come to a screeching halt.
If the estate you are working with is simple and you have clear instructions and copies of the forms you need, you may be able to go through the probate process without getting legal advice. However, if complications arise, it's very important to get legal help as soon as possible.
For example, if any of the following circumstances come to light, it is highly recommended that you seek the help of an experienced California probate attorney.
- If there is a complicated tax situation, such as a dispute over past taxes
- Ambiguities in the wording of the will
- Disputed claims, such as a spouse who says property left to someone else is community property
- Problems with disputed debts or unfinished contracts, such as the sale of a business that wasn’t completed
- A significant amount of property left to a minor who needs to have a guardian appointed
- If the estate doesn’t have enough assets to pay all the debts.
It's important to keep in mind that there are several options for hiring a California probate attorney. You can simply consult an attorney for advice or to review any documents you have prepared for error. While hiring a lawyer to guide you through the probate process might cost a little bit up front, you may just end up saving yourself a good chunk of cash in the long run by ensuring that the procedure and documents are error-free and ready to go.