Navigating the Probate Process with Diane Barela

Probate, the legal process used to settle someone’s affairs after death, can be both confusing and intimidating.  Many times, the person asked or expected to represent the interests of the decedent is still contending with their own sense of loss.  This can make facing the unknown and seemingly daunting tasks of probate feel overwhelming.  According to a study by the University of Arizona, most of us have some level of fear of the unknown, and this fear can be especially strong when it comes to topics like probate.

Diane Barela, an REI Probate Specialist with KO Development, assists their clients in understanding and navigating the complicated probate process. As a former therapist, Diane is well-equipped to handle the emotional side of probate.

So, what exactly is probate and why is it important?  While not a legal professional, Diane explains that simply put, it’s the court process of settling a person’s estate after they die. This includes identifying and inventorying the decedent’s assets, paying off debts (including any outstanding taxes) and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries listed in the person’s will (if one exists).  Or in the absence of a will, assets remaining after debts are paid are then carefully distributed according to very specific California laws of inheritance.

One of the most intimidating aspects of overseeing a person’s estate is the idea of going to court. However, it’s important to understand that not every estate is handled the same.  The dollar amount of the estate will impact how a case is filed in court.  Some estates valued at smaller dollar amounts may be addressed with something as simple as an Affidavit that’s approved by a probate judge without an appearance.  Others may take several hearings.  Probate cases vary in their duration and how the case is filed in court based upon the individual factors associated with it.  However, hiring an experienced probate attorney, like the ones KO Development works with, will alleviate the stress of court appearances and ensure that the process is handled correctly. 

One common misconception about probate is that it’s a lengthy and expensive process.  While that can be true at times, there’s ways to expedite the process of transferring assets after one’s death, and minimize costs, or even by-passing probate altogether.  A well-organized, up-to-date estate plan helps speed up the process as it leaves the estate’s representative and court a roadmap to follow.  Having a “roadmap” makes it easier for both the court and personal representative to carry out the wishes of the deceased person while minimizing opportunities for disagreements amongst heirs.  Having clearly written instructions reduces the burden on grieving loved ones.

In conclusion, probate doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming. With the help of well informed professionals, it’s possible to navigate the process while making sure your loved one’s estate is settled in a way that’s fair and efficient. Don’t let the fear of the unknown hold you back.  Hire an attorney when necessary, and work with professionals familiar with the probate process.  It’s possible to both ensure that your loved one’s wishes are carried out and reduce the stress normally associated with walking into the unknown territory of probate by working with knowledgeable and caring professionals.

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