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What are the legal responsibilities of executors regarding probate real estate?

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What Is Probate, and Must It Always Be Used to Transfer My Estate?

When a close family member or relative dies, it’s always an emotional and stressful time, and dealing with their assets and liabilities many times adds to this troublesome time.

In California, when a family member dies, you commonly go to court to legally transfer their assets; this is especially true of real estate holdings. Probate is the legal means by which the court deals with “who gets what & when” after your family member’s death; it can be a lengthy and challenging process that involves many questions, all the heirs, and usually some conflict.

Some of the items that are dealt with in probate court are;

  • Finding out if a will exists and is currently valid.
  • Deciding precisely who the decedent’s heirs are or their beneficiaries.
  • Calculating precisely how much the decedent’s assets are worth, especially real estate holdings.
  •  Resolving the decedent’s financial responsibilities and debt and transferring assets and real estate to their heirs or beneficiaries.

However, in California, there are some simplified procedures for smaller estates whose value is less than $166,250. 

A smaller estate with fewer assets may be transferred more quickly and not have to go through the probate court.

Some common examples of these types of more easily transferred assets are;

  • Certain assets, such as a retirement plan, life insurance policy, or a bank account, may already have a named beneficiary. In this case, the assets could be transferred to the heir or beneficiary without going to court.
  • If the family home is owned by two or more people as joint tenants, these other owners have the right of survivorship. This would allow them to inherit the entire property more efficiently in their name.
  • Real estate can sometimes be transferred with a transfer-on-death deed (aka a beneficiary deed), bypassing the probate courts.
  • Any assets or property held in living trusts can be transferred without going to court.

Going through the California probate court is usually necessary if the decedent holds more real estate or other substantial assets. In either scenario, the professional guidance and advice of a skilled, experienced California probate lawyer will prove invaluable.

What Is an Estate “Executor” and What Do They Do?

Commonly, you appoint a professional (such as your lawyer) or a trusted family member or friend to act as your executor and essentially manage your estate much like they would run a business. The Executor ensures that debts are resolved, taxes are paid, and all other assets, especially real estate, are cared for. Your executor would eventually distribute all the remaining assets to your heirs and beneficiaries according to your Will.

Further, if the Estate (or the testator) has a legal claim against a third party, the Executor must consider filing suit.

Additionally, your executor will fight any legal claims against your assets and follow a formal legal procedure for rejecting and contesting these claims in court.

Some of the most common duties of an executor are;

  • Collecting data on all the assets included in your estate and managing them.
  •  Distributing funds to pay expenses needed to maintain your assets, such as real estate repairs, etc.
  • Paying any monthly expenses necessary to keep your assets secure, such as mortgages, utility bills, and insurance payments.
  • Paying income taxes or property taxes when due.
  • Terminating and renewing leases on investment property.
  • Managing estate bank and brokerage accounts so the estate’s income keeps coming in.
  • Locating all your heirs and beneficiaries, keeping them updated on the estate’s progress, and much more.

I Hold a Real Estate Portfolio in My Estate. Will My Executor Manage It?

Real property (real estate), such as land, private homes, apartment buildings, etc., may pose specific problems for your executor if they are not professionals.

Handling a portfolio of real estate properties is part of what your executor will do. You may believe you know exactly what your estate assets are worth. Still, your executor has a legal obligation to enlist the help of a court-appointed probate appraiser to produce current professional valuations of your property’s actual worth.

Suppose you own investment property, such as vacation homes, apartments, land, etc. In that case, your executor must not only value these properties but also ensure rents are paid, upkeep is maintained, and all other aspects of caring for them run smoothly. Managing a portfolio of real properties can be daunting, and the professional, thorough, and experienced help of an El Dorado Hills probate real estate lawyer is mandatory.

Some assets, such as bank accounts, even stocks and bonds, must be monitored, but managing real estate, especially while going through probate court, is usually a full-time, daily job.

What If My Real Estate Is Not All In One State; Is Probate Affected?

Of course, this makes the executor’s duties more challenging, but usually, the probate laws of the state in which you (the decedent) permanently resided will determine who gets your personal property and the decedent’s real property (real estate) located within your home state. Even if assets may be in other states, probate is usually always filed in the decedent’s home state.

If part (or all) of your real property is in another state, that state’s probate laws will determine how it will be affected and distributed.

Your skilled and well-versed real estate probate lawyer will usually open a probate case in each state where you own real property. Every state has its method for distributing real property when included in an estate. Any existing Will will first be admitted to probate in your state (say California) but then must be submitted to probate in each other state (say Nevada) where you own real property.
This additional probate process is known as “ancillary probate.” Some states insist that a local resident be appointed to administer the property in that state.

Admittedly, this is no easy legal task to manage, and it’s critical to have the guidance and knowledgeable help of a highly experienced California probate real estate lawyer on your side.

My Estate Includes Real Estate, and I Need Advice; How Should I Proceed?

The probate legal process in California is always challenging, and including Real Estate as part of your asset holdings can significantly complicate the process. Your executor may have to transfer property, sell some off, pay off loans, and keep up with maintenance, and these duties must be done legally and correctly, or dire consequences may be incurred.

The El Dorado Hills probate real estate lawyers at the Yonano Law Offices, P.C. have a talented, experienced team of real estate probate lawyers and the experience to handle any issue you might be facing.

Call them today at 916-894-8790 to obtain a professional consultation on your unique problems and goals. They will fight tirelessly, empathetically, and aggressively for you and your family.


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