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Benefits of Probate

When Probate Can be a Good Thing

In Santa Clara County, the Probate Division of the Superior Court located at the Downtown Superior Courthouse handles probate proceedings for decedent's who resided in Santa Clara County prior to their passing. Although there are definitely certain legal maneuvers strategically taken to avoid the probate process, in some cases probate is a valuable procedure which protects the inheritance rights of beneficiaries.

Technically, probate is the court-supervised process that transfers legal title of property from the decedent's estate to his or her beneficiaries. This process begins when the person named in the will (the executor) is officially appointed by the court. One of the immediate benefits of having this procedure court-supervised is that the personal representative or executor is required to comply with specific legal procedures in accordance with California State laws.

Beneficiaries and those with an interest in the estate can take comfort in the fact that the executor does not have free reign over his or her duties, and there are legal remedies available if the beneficiaries feel that the personal representative is acting dishonestly or mismanaging the estate. Other benefits of probate include:

  • The personal representative cannot pay themselves without court approval.
  • The personal representative cannot make preliminary distributions of property to beneficiaries without court approval (with a few exceptions).
  • If the personal representative improperly manages assets or fails to pay claims on the estate, the court can order his or her removal.
  • If someone objects to the will, there are legal remedies available.
  • The executor is required to file final state and federal income tax returns on behalf of the decedent.
  • When wills are filed with probate court they are usually available for public viewing.
  • As an heir, you will receive an automatic notice when certain petitions are filed and this includes the petition for appointment of a personal representative.

Need a lawyer for probate in San Jose?

Without the probate court and probate proceedings, a fiduciary or personal representative (executor, administrator) could abuse their power and authority. While there are many honest personal representatives that act in good faith, there are those select individuals who would take advantage of their position if laws weren't set in place to shield heirs from such unscrupulous practices. For this reason, every state has enacted stringent probate laws designed to preserve estate assets and protect heirs and beneficiaries so that they can receive their rightful share from an estate.

If you need assistance with an estate planning or probate matter, please contact me at the Law Offices of Timothy D. Henry. As your San Jose probate and estate planning lawyer, I can be reached at (408) 643-0942 for a free consultation.