Our Estate Planning and Elder Law FAQs

How do I set up a trust? Does a will have to be notarized to be enforceable? Is my mother eligible for Medi-Cal? Who should I name as a guardian to my children in my will? In our FAQs, we offer answers to the most commonly-asked questions about wills, trusts, probate, and other estate planning topics.

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  • Does a small estate have to be probated?

    In California, estates that are valued at less than $150,000 do not have to be probated. There is a Small Estate Affidavit that can used.

  • What’s California Probate? How much does it cost? How long does it take?

    Probate is a legal proceeding that is used to wind up a person’s legal and financial affairs after death. In California probate proceedings are conducted in the Superior Court for the county where the decedent lived, and can take at least 8 months and sometimes as long as several years. The California Probate Code sets the maximum attorneys fees for a probate: 4% of the first $100,000 of the estate, 3% of the next $100,000, 2% of the next $800,000, and 1% on amounts over 1 million. It is noteworthy that the fees to the attorney are calculated on the gross fair market value of the property going through probate. Also note that the executor is entitled to the same amount of fees.

  • Are there assets that would not have to go through probate?

    Some kind of assets transfer automatically at the death of an owner with no probate or trust administration required. The most common kinds of such assets are:

    • Joint Tenancy; Tenancy by the Entirety; or Community Property With Right of Survivorship 
    • Beneficiary Designations – retirement accounts and life insurance policies have named beneficiaries.
    • Payable on Death Accounts/Transfer on Death Accounts