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Know thy probate options

I met with a new client today whose husband died recently. She said she went to a local attorney, who was very nice, and told her she would have to do a full probate to get the house out of her husband’s name and into her name.  The grieving widow, luckily, decided to do a little more research before hiring that attorney.

The problem is that this attorney didn’t know all the options or… worse.  Let’s just assume he didn’t know all the options. The problem is a lot of attorneys say they are “probate attorneys” because they have done a probate before. This does not make one a true probate attorney.  Doing one or two or even 20 probates does not make one an expert.

If you are looking to hire an attorney find someone that:

1) is a CERTIFIED SPECIALIST IN ESTATE PLANNING TRUST AND PROBATE LAW;

2) only knows about probate, trust and estate law on their website;

3) has been practicing for many years.

If you find anybody else you are shortchanging yourself.

In this case the client came to me and suggested that from her research a spousal property petition might be a more efficient way to go. In fact, normally that’s our go-to petition when one spouse dies. However, in this case they had a short term marriage and thus the house being in the deceased husband’s name (alone) will make a spousal property petition, or SPP, very difficult.

She told me the house was probably worth about $190,000.   I asked if there was any chance it would appraise for $150,000. She said YES!  So we are going to try to get it appraised for under $150,000 so that we can file a petition to determine succession to real property worth less than $150,000. In this case the decedent’s only child is in full agreement and thus the under $150k probate should work.

The options such as an SPP or an under $150k probate pay the attorney less than a full probate.  Sadly there are starving attorneys out there who make recommendations with their pocket book in mind before your well being.  Make sure you work with a California probate attorney who cares about his clients and wants to do the best thing for THE CLIENT!

I hope to work with you!  -John

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