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Probate

What is Probate?
The term probate literally means “the official proving of a will.” In reality, the term is used in a broader context to refer to the court proceeding to orderly distribute the assets of a dead person to those who are entitled to inherit them, regardless of whether the dead (“deceased”) person left a will.

Probate involves a process which does the following: 

The Probate Process


  • Determines what personal property and real estate is owned by the deceased person.
  • Pays any taxes or debts that the deceased person may owe (including probate), and
  • Distributes all real and personal property which remains to the rightful beneficiaries.
  • The entire probate process differs from state to state and from case to case. In California, the time a probate proceeding will typically remain open is 6 months to a year. For estates, which require assets to be sold, or where disputes exist that must be resolved by the court, it could take longer.


Summary Probate
In certain circumstances, such as when the deceased person leaves property that passes entirely to their spouse and the assets of estate are less than $100,000 and there are not serious disputes over how the property should pass, various “summary” probate proceedings can be used that speed up and streamline the transfer of property.

What is a Probate Guardianship?

Guardianship is a court proceeding where a judge appoints someone to care for a person under age 18 or to manage his or her property, or both. A probate Guardianship of the person gives someone who is not the child’s parent custody and control of the child. Guardianship of the estate gives someone (parent or not) the right to manage the minor’s property until the child is 18.

What is a Probate Conservatorship?

A Conservatorship is a proceeding where a judge appoints someone to take care for a person who, due to either mental or physical disability, can no longer own personal needs, manage their own finances or both.

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Estate Planning



What Is Estate Planning?
Estate planning is a process of preparing for life’s contingencies.
As you plan your estate, you will need to consider:

  • How your assets will be managed for your benefit if you are unable to do so.
  • When certain assets will be transferred to others, either during your lifetime, at your death, or sometime after your death.
  • To whom those assets will pass, be it to family, friends, or charitable organizations.
  • Estate planning also addresses planning for your own personal and health care needs and when you are no longer able to care for yourself. You may at first believe that estate planning is simply the writing of a will. But it encompasses much more. Estate planning may involve financial, tax, medical, and business planning. A will is one part of that planning process, but other documents are needed to fully address your estate planning needs.

Some important Estate Planning Tools

  • Will

A will is a legal document, drafted and executed in accordance with state law, which becomes irrevocable at your death. In your will, you can name your beneficiaries, a guardian for your minor children, and an executor.
Your beneficiaries are family members, friends, a domestic partner, or a charitable foundation who will receive your assets as you direct.

A guardian for your minor children. You may nominate a person who will have the responsibility to care for your child if you and your spouse die before the child attains 18 years of age. You may also name a guardian-who may or may not be the same person-to be responsible for management of assets given to a minor child, until the child attains 18 years of age.

An executor. This person of your choice, named in your will and appointed by the probate court, collects and manages your assets, pays your debts and expenses and any taxes that might be due, and then, in a manner approved by the court, distributes your assets to your beneficiaries in accordance with your will.

  • Power of Attorney

Is a document that you (the principal) sign to give someone else (the “agent” or “attorney in fact”) the power to do certain things for you. You decide what powers the agent has. You can let your agent make financial, health or very limited and specific decisions for you.

  • Health Care Directive

Is a document that specifies your wishes regarding your health care should you at some point be unable to personally express those wishes to your physician or agent. It can save your estate from probate and costly litigation if you fall into a legislative state, and give assurance that your wishes will be followed.


What Is A Trust?
A trust is a written legal agreement between the individual creating it (the “trustor” or “settler”) and the person or institution named to manage the assets held in the trust (the “trustee”). The trust establishes terms under which property is to be managed for the benefit of one or more persons (the “beneficiaries”). Properly prepared trusts can provide for private management of your assets during your lifetime and upon death without the expense, delay and publicity of court intervention and probate. In certain circumstances a trust can be used to minimize inheritance taxes.

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Real Estate


Real Estate is a legal term that encompasses land along with improvements to the land, such as buildings, fences wells and other site improvements that are fixed in location – immovable.

Our firm offers assistance in many areas of real estate including landlord-tenant issues, unlawful detainers (evictions of tenants who wrongfully fail to leave rented property), property transfer, and disputes over purchase contracts, ownership, and liens.

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Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy is a legal proceeding in which a person who cannot pay his or her bills can get a fresh financial start. Filing bankruptcy immediately stops most of your creditors from seeking to collect debts from you, at least until your debts are sorted out according to the law. Bankruptcy will not stop criminal or government proceedings, nor most domestic relations matters.

There are four types of bankruptcy cases provided under the law:

  • Chapter 7 is known as “straight” bankruptcy or “liquidation.” It requires a debtor to give up property, which exceeds certain limits called “exemptions,” so the property can be sold to pay creditors.

  • Chapter 11, known as “reorganization,” is used by businesses and a few individual debtors whose debts are very large.

  • Chapter 12 is reserved for family farmers and fisherman.

  • Chapter 13 is called “debt adjustment.” It requires a debtor to file a plan to pay debts

  • (or parts of debts) from current income. Chapter 13 relief is available only to individuals and married couples who have debts within the debt limits.

  • Most people filing bankruptcy will want to file under either chapter 7 or chapter 13.

  • Either type of case may be filed individually or by a married couple filing jointly.


Although it may be possible for some people to file a bankruptcy case without an attorney, it is not a step to be taken lightly. The process is difficult and you may lose property or other rights if you do not know the law. It takes patience and careful preparation. If you start a bankruptcy case and fail to complete it; or if you make a mistake, which results in denial of your discharge; or you make other errors; you may be barred from filing again for many years.

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"Life's unfairness is not irrevocable; we can help balance the scales for others, if not always for ourselves."

Hubert H. Humphrey

"The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life."

Jane Addams