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Torrance Elder Law Blog

What happens during a probate hearing?

Probate is a very complex process that entails many different steps, such as determining a will’s validity and paying off outstanding debts. Even if you have a will in place at the time of your death your will may still enter into probate, especially if your family has objections. explains a few of the things that can occur during a probate hearing.

Authentication of the will

Executors can use these steps to locate heirs

Every California family has a history. Many have members who are estranged, moved away without telling anyone or are simply difficult to reach. When another member of the family passes away, it is the executor's job to locate everyone who qualifies as a legal heir or who is named in the will.

This could be an easy part of the process or a difficult one. In either case, an executor may need some help finding everyone who is legally required to receive notice of the death and probate.

How does a court determine when a conservatorship is needed?

After agonizing over the decision that your loved one can no longer make decisions for him or herself, you decide to petition a California court to become his or her conservator. You may be convinced that your loved one needs assistance, but you know the court won't just take your word for it.

Understanding the process ahead may help alleviate some of the anxiety and stress you may feel as you endeavor to help your loved one.

Who can contest a will?

It’s not uncommon for a will to be contested. After all, family members may feel as though they didn’t receive their fair share, or they might allege that the will was created under duress or via coercion. Only certain people can challenge a will in this case, such as those who can show they thy would suffer from personal ramifications if the terms of the will were carried out. explains who can and cannot contest a will.

When a person dies without a will in place, their assets are dispersed to direct descendants by the state. This includes spouses, children, grandchildren, and finally distant relatives. Direct descendants have standing if a will is created and they’re not included in it. In this case, the disinherited heir may claim that the will was invalid or that he or she was left out in error. If the will is deemed invalid by the court, assets would be dispersed according to state law and the heir would likely receive a share in this case.

Are you seeing the early signs of Alzheimer's in your parent?

It is an unfortunate reality that as people age, they also lose some of their physical and mental capacity. In some cases, this decline can seem relatively minor and not impact a person's ability to care for him or herself. However, some people -- possibly even your parent or another loved one -- may face serious decline in mental health due to Alzheimer's disease.

This disease affects a substantial number of people, and in some cases, the early onset of the disease can begin to rob a person of his or her memories far too soon in life. Of course, you certainly do not want to jump to any unnecessary conclusions about your parent's health, but if you have concerns, you may want to consider possible signs of Alzheimer's disease.

What is the difference between an executor and an administrator?

When it comes to the disposition of the property of someone who has passed away in California, the task may either fall to an executor or an administrator. According to FindLaw, the duties involved in the two roles are very similar to one other.

The difference between an executor and an administrator has to do with the decedent's estate planning, or lack thereof. If you die without making out a valid will, your property will pass according to the process of intestate succession, and the court will appoint an administrator to take charge of that process and pass on your assets according to the laws of your state. 

On what grounds can you contest a will?

Before you decide to challenge a will in California, be sure that you have a very good reason to do so. According to FindLaw, the court sees the will as the voice of the decedent, and in the interest of respecting the wishes of one who is no longer able to speak for himself or herself, the court maintains strict adherence to the will, and challenging one is therefore very difficult.

However, certain circumstances or conditions may invalidate a will. If you have interest to gain in a will and there is a legitimate reason to believe that it is not valid, you have the right to contest it. Reasons that a will may be invalid include the following.

How can I protect a loved one from financial fraud?

If you care for an aging parent in California, you know how easy is can be for seniors to get lured into financial frauds. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent scam artists from taking advantage of your loved ones to access their funds. USA Today offers the following advice in this case, which will help you safeguard your parent’s finances.

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What are beneficiary designations?

When it comes to retirement accounts and life insurance policies, you want to make sure the right heirs receive the proceeds. That’s why beneficiary designations are so important. As another type of estate planning tool, designating beneficiaries will ensure that your assets are dispersed in the manner you deem appropriate, as opposed to leaving the decision up to the court. offers more information on how beneficiary designations can help you.

Beneficiary designations vs. wills

Handling probate issues during a health crisis

Whether you are setting up an estate plan and are worried about how probate matters may affect your loved ones in the future or you are in the middle of a probate dispute, our law firm recognizes that these issues can be incredibly hard to work through. Furthermore, you may be facing challenges in your personal life that add to what you are already going through. For example, you could be struggling with a health crisis such as a cancer diagnosis, serious injuries following an unexpected accident or some other type of serious health problem.

Sometimes, health problems can be so serious that they derail a person’s life in many ways. Health issues can create financial burdens, cause physical pain and lead to a great deal of emotional suffering. Regrettably, some people allow their health problems to get in the way of other important affairs that need to be handled properly, such as those related to the probate process. If you are going through a probate dispute and an unexpected health issue simultaneously, you may feel as if you cannot deal with all of these hardships at the same time. However, failing to protect your interests and take the steps that are necessary could lead to additional difficulties which may have been avoidable.

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