Wills Trusts and Estates Lawyer
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Axis Legal Counsel’s Wills, Trusts, Estate, and Probate Practice represents individual clients and families with estate planning , trust/estate controversies, and probate administration.
We also represent a wide variety of clients such as trust beneficiaries, settlors, professional fiduciaries, heirs, adult children, guardians, conservators, conservatees, and various others in the Trusts & Estates field seeking a California Probate Attorney or Los Angeles Probate Attorney.
We serve clients from all over the nation and from 22+ countries internationally.
► Our Wills, Trusts, and Estate Practice Areas
Axis represents clients with Estate Planning, including the preparation of Wills, Trusts, Codicils, and other types of estate planning documents.
- Revocable Trusts
- Living Trusts
- Charitable Trusts
- Asset Protection Trusts
- Catastrophic Illness Trusts
- Medicaid Trusts
- Special Needs Trusts
- A-B (Couple’s) Trusts
- Pet Trusts
- Life Insurance Trusts
- Living Wills
- Advanced Healthcare Directives
►Probate and Probate Administration
We represent clients with probate administration of large or complex estates, involving residential, commercial properties, or of high net worth individuals.
- Large estates
- Residential and commercial properties
- Death of a loved one with a will or trust
- Deaths without a will or trust
- High net worth individuals
- Complex estate administration
- Difficult estates involving clutter / hoarding
- Probate administration
- Special administration
► Trust Administration and Fiduciary Services
Axis Legal Counsel also represents clients in trust administration matters, representing trustees, beneficiaries, and settlors, both in trust formation, administration matters, and trust litigation.
- Trust planning
- Trust formation
- Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts
- Medicaid Trusts
- Special Needs Trust
- Trust Administration
- Trust Litigation
Losing a loved one is a sad and difficult time for family, relatives, and friends. In addition, those left behind must often figure out how to transfer or inherit property from the person who has died.
To do this, you must usually go to court. And dealing with the courts and the property of someone who has died is very complicated. Sometimes, however, family or relatives may be able to transfer property from someone who has died without going to court. But it is not always easy to tell whether you need to go to court or qualify to use a different procedure.
►Top FAQs for Wills, Trusts, and Estates
What is Probate?
Probate means that there is a court case that deals with:
• Transferring the property of someone who has died to the heirs or beneficiaries;
• Deciding if a will is valid; and
• Taking care of the financial responsibilities of the person who died.
In a probate case, an executor (if there is a will) or an administrator (if there is no will) is appointed by the court as personal representative to collect the assets, pay the debts and expenses, and then distribute the remainder of the estate to the beneficiaries (those who have the legal right to inherit), all under the supervision of the court. The entire case can take between 9 months to 1 ½ years, maybe even longer.
What Steps are Involved in a Probate Administration?
The Will must be filed in the county where the decedent lived.
A Petition for Probate must be filed as well. This requests the appointment of an executor. If there is no Will, the Court will appoint someone to serve as the Personal Representative of the estate. Notice must be given to all heirs and beneficiaries, as required by the court.
Once the Peititon for Probate is filed, a notice must be published in a newspaper where the decedent lived. This is to notify potential creditors of the proceeding.
The Court will issue “Letters Testamentary” to the executor/Personal Representative — this gives the executor legal authority to act on behalf of the estate.
An inventory of the estate’s assets must be filed with the court
Once all of the creditors and taxes have been paid, a Petition to close the probate must be filed with the court.
The Court will issue an Order, distributing the estate’s property to the beneficiaries.
The executor is entitled to fees for their services, but since such fees are subject to income tax (which inheritances aren’t, unless California has an inheritance tax), many executors forgo the fees.
How Long Does the Probate Process Take?
California law says the personal representative must complete probate within one year from the date of appointment, unless s/he files a federal estate tax. In this case, the personal representative can have 18 months to complete probate.
If probate has not been completed by that time, the personal representative must file a status report to the court to explain what still has to be done and how much time that will take.
If the personal representative does not report to the court, the beneficiaries can ask the court to order him or her to file an accounting or take other actions to close probate. The court can remove the personal representative and appoint someone else.
Sometimes there are circumstances that can make probate take longer. If there is a Will contest (a claim filed with the court that all or part of the will is not valid), or the size and complexity of the estate requires extra time, or it is hard to find beneficiaries, the process can drag out. Some probate cases take years to resolve.
What is a Personal Representative Required to Do?
The Personal Representative must:
- decide if there are any probate assets;
- locate the decedent’s assets and manage them during the probate process. This could take up to a year or longer and may involve deciding whether to sell real estate or securities owned by the decedent;
- receive payments due to the estate, including interest, dividends, and other income (e.g., unpaid salary, vacation pay, and other company benefits)
- set up an estate checking account to hold money that is owed to the decedent — for example, paychecks or stock dividends;
- figure out who is going to get what and how much under the Will. If there is no Will, the administrator will have to look at state law (Probate code Sections 6400 – 6414, called “intestate succession” statutes) to find out who the decedent’s heirs are and determine each heir’s share of the estate;
- value or appraise the estate’s assets;
- give official legal notice to creditors and potential creditors of the probate proceeding and the deadlines for creditors to file claims, according to state law;
- investigate the validity of all claims against the estate;
- pay funeral bills, outstanding debts, and valid claims;
- use estate funds to pay continuing expenses — for example, mortgage payments, utility bills and homeowner’s insurance premiums;
- handle day-to-day details, such as disconnecting utilities, ending leases and credit cards, and notifying banks and government agencies — such as Social Security, the post office;
- file tax returns and pay income and estate taxes – including a final state and federal income tax return covering the period from the beginning of the tax year to the date of death;
- after getting the court’s permission, distribute the decedent’s property to the people or organizations named in the Will, or to the decedent’s heirs if there is no Will; and
- file receipts for distribution and wrap up any closing details for the estate.
What if There is No Will?
If a person dies without a Will (known as dying “intestate”), the probate court appoints a personal representative (known as an “administrator”).
The major difference between dying testate and dying intestate is that an intestate estate is distributed according to state law (known as “intestate succession”). A testate estate is distributed according to the instructions left by the decedent in his or her Will.
What is the Deceased Person Owned Land in More than One State?
The probate laws of the state in which the decedent was a permanent resident determine who will get the decedent’s personal property (wherever it was located) and the decedent’s real property located within the state. This is why probate is almost always filed in the decedent’s home state.
If the decedent owned real property in another state, that state’s laws determine how the real property will be distributed.
There will be probate in each state where there is real property, in addition to the home state. Each state has its own method for distributing the decedent’s real property.
Even if there is a Will, the Will is first admitted to probate in the home state, then it must be submitted to probate in each state in which the decedent owned real property.
The extra probate procedure is called “ancillary probate.” Some states insist upon the appointment of a personal representative who is a local resident to administer the property in that state.
What Assets are Not Subject to Probate?
Second, not all assets are subject to probate. Some kinds of assets transfer automatically at the death of an owner with no probate required. The most common kinds of assets that pass without probate are:
Joint Tenancy assets-when one joint tenant dies, the surviving joint tenant becomes the owner of the entire asset, without the need for a court order. This is called “right of survivorship.” For example, if a house is owned this way, “Jane Sage and John Sage, as joint tenants,” and Jane dies, John owns the entire house.
Tenancy by the Entirety or Community Property With Right of Survivorship-these are forms of property ownership that function like joint tenancy, in that the survivor owns the entire property at the death of the other tenant, but are only available to married couples.
Beneficiary Designations-retirement accounts and life insurance policies have named beneficiaries. Upon the death of the account or policy owner, these beneficiaries are entitled to the assets in the account or the proceeds of the policy.
Payable on Death Accounts/Transfer on Death Accounts-bank and brokerage accounts can have designated beneficiaries, too. The account owner can fill out forms to designate who should recieve the account assets after their death.
Third, if a decedent had created a Living Trust to hold his or her’s largest assets, than that estate, too, won’t go through probate, unless the assets left outside of the trust add up to more than California’s small estate limit. That, in fact, is why that Living Trust was created, to avoid probate after the death of the trust’s Grantor.
How are Estate Taxes Handled in a Probate?
For federal and state tax purposes, death means two things:
- It marks the date of the close of the decedent’s last tax year for filing an income tax return, and
- It establishes a new, separate entity for tax purposes, the “estate.”
For federal taxes, you may have to fill out and file one or more of the following forms. (It depends on the decedent’s income, the size of the estate, and the income of the estate):
- Final Form 1040 Federal Income Tax return (the decedent’s personal income tax return)
- Form 1041 Federal Fiduciary Income Tax returns for the estate
- Form 709 Federal Gift Tax return(s)
- Form 706 Federal Estate Tax return
For California taxes, the executor must file any needed state income tax return, state fiduciary income tax returns during the probate period, estate tax and gift tax returns.
There may be other taxes, too, like local real estate and personal property taxes, business taxes, and any special state taxes.
► Get Legal Help Now
We represents clients in numerous kind of probate matters, including wills and codicils, small estates, trusts, revocable trusts, living trusts, probate, estate-planning, probate administration, probate litigation, will contests, trust litigation, and numerous others. For information on retaining AXIS Legal Counsel to represent you with respect to any probate, wills, trusts, or estate matter, contact email@example.com or call (213) 403-0130 for a confidential consultation.
► Our Top Probate FAQs
Our FAQs answer the most common issues
for individuals and families in the field of Wills, Trusts, Estates, and Probate.
We have an extensive FAQ Library that covers the most common questions we receive from clients.
- Irrevocable Trusts: Understanding Key Features, Benefits, and Limitations
- What is a Trust and Do You Need One?
- Who Makes End of Life Decisions When an Accidental Tragedy Occurs?
- California Will Requirements and Top Wills FAQs
- Estate-Planning: Why the First Step is the Hardest Step
- Basic Will Guide and Overview
- Handling a Small Estate After the Death of a Loved One
- What is a Trust? Preparing a Living Trust in California
- Do I Need a Will? Making a Will in California
► AS SEEN IN
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►Our Awards and Accolades
Our talented legal counsel has consistently been recognized for excellence in legal services, and has been rated or ranked by Avvo, SuperLawyers, Euromoney’s Definitive Guide to Leading Litigation Lawyers & Law Firms, Los Angeles Magazine, and others.
- Superlawyers – Rising Stars (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019) – Top 2.5% of Attorneys in the State
- “Superb” Rated by Avvo.com (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)
- “Top Attorneys – Los Angeles Magazine (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)
- Recognized as one of the Global 100 Lawyers in Business Law (2017)
- “Business Law Firm of the Year” – ACQ/Intertrust Magazine (2016)
- “Top Business Law Firm” – Finance Monthly Magazine (2016)
- “Superb” Rated by Avvo.com (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)
- Lawyers of Distinction (2016)
- “Up and Coming Attorneys” (2010)
- Euromoney’s Definitive Guide to Leading Lawyers and Firms (2009)
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► Serving Clients Nationwide and in 22+ Countries Internationally
We represent clients throughout the U.S. and in 22+ countries internationally.
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