Frequently Asked Questions
Answers from the Law Offices of David A. Shapiro, P.C.
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What is probate?
Historically, probate was the judicial process where a judge determines if a will is valid or not. Nowadays, the term probate is also used to describe administering an estate, the legal process where a decedent's assets are collected, inventoried, managed, and distributed to creditors and beneficiaries.
The administration of a probated estate is carefully supervised by the courts. With rules and court oversight probate can be effective in preventing abuse and having assets transferring to creditors and beneficiaries of the estate. However, many complain about the cost, delay, and publicity of probating the estate.
What is a will?
A will is a legal document that provides instructions to be carried out after your death. A will is revocable during one's lifetime but becomes irrevocable at death. Wills are important estate litigation devices and may be used to direct who receives your assets, to nominate who will take care of your children, and to select who will manage your estate after your death. Preparation of a will is a very important part of estate litigaiton. If someone dies without a will, that person dies "intestate."
California law will then determine who the beneficiaries of the estate are and how the decedent's assets are to be distributed. You should not confuse a "will" and a "living will." A living will is a legal document used in certain states other than California that is similar to an Advanced Health Care Directive or Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare Decisions. A will must be signed and must be witnessed by two competent adults that are not beneficiaries.
What is a codicil?
A codicil is a legal document that changes the terms of your will. Many wills are drafted and stashed in a closet for years. Over time, marriages come and go, children are born, and life moves on. For those reasons, it is important to review your estate plan regularly with your attorney to adjust your estate plans to make sure everything will be distributed and administered according your wishes.
You should be careful not to cross out words or sentences or make notes on other corrections on your existing will. Instead, you should prepare a codicil or revoke your previous will and draft a new will. A codicil also needs to be signed and be witnessed by two competent adults that are not beneficiaries.
Do you still have questions?
If you still have questions regarding the specific nature of your case, you should not hesitate to consult with a knowledgeable lawyer from the Law Offices of David A. Shapiro, P.C. today. By filling out a free case evaluation form online and submitting it to our firm, we will have the opportunity to review the circumstances of your case and advise you on how to move forward. Whether you are looking for guidance throughout the trust administration process, we are available to help. There is no time to waste when dealing with such important, and sensitive, legal matters, so do not hesitate to enlist the professional help that you will need.
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