At the time of writing, the United States has reported 80,000 deaths related to COVID-19 and California has reported just over 2,800 deaths. The current pandemic is cruel at every level. Losing a loved one is a sad and difficult time for family, relatives, and friends. It is an especially trying time to lose someone during this coronavirus pandemic, as loved ones are banned from hospital visits and funerals.
If a death occurs in California, California Probate laws prevail, even if the death is COVID-19 related. Dealing with probate court can be a very stressful and tedious process. This presents an added burden for families already stressed and exhausted with the lockdowns. Adding to the stress is the loss of income from layoffs and changes in accustomed lifestyles.
Dealing with a decedent’s assets, property, and matters deemed as inheritance is complicated under normal circumstances. COVID-19 has made everything more difficult;
Courts throughout Southern California have been closed for weeks. Because of this, there are delays in processing all legal cases, including probate. If there are issues with an estate, they are now being put off, as no one has a timetable when things will return to “normal”.
There are fees associated with probate, see details here. However, whilst there are forgiveness programs for some businesses, such as the SBA’s Payroll Protection Plan, there is no forgiveness on probate fees. A death without a comprehensive estate plan makes a difficult situation infinitely harder for grieving loved ones.
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. This can be an extremely difficult and confusing process if the deceased has not left a comprehensive, clear estate plan.
Many probate courts in Southern California are closed because of COVID-19. This varies from court to court and changes are made every day. Many probate cases are being continued as a result. The issues of continuances, caused by the coronavirus pandemic, emphasizes the need for the use of an experienced probate attorney. These continuances can cause probate to go on a much longer time. An experienced attorney can prepare your case, perhaps even mediate outstanding issues with family members, or prepare your defense should it result in probate litigation.
If you have family members who are elderly, high risk for COVID-19, quarantined and sick either at home, at a nursing care facility or hospital, take the time to prepare or update an estate plan documents including their living trust. Prepared correctly, this legal document will help shield the estate from California probate. Your estate plan should also include an Advance Health Care Directive that is so important for medical teams to exercise the right wishes should your loved ones be facing death.
At Velasco Law Group we are providing consultations through phone or video conferencing. Your safety comes first, do not feel pressured to meet the attorney in person. There are many options today to get your questions answered through remote technology.
Ensure you pick an attorney that can explain the legal framework of estate planning and the avoidance of probate. Our team of attorneys are available to provide consultations in English and Spanish. If you have elderly parents who only speak Spanish, we can consult directly with them to ensure that there wishes are correctly stated.
To make an appointment with any one of our estate plan attorneys, take the time to call us or write to us HERE. Your investment in an estate plan is an important step in protecting your family from the often-costly California probate process. Stay safe!
Did you miss our Free Download to get an Advance Health Care Directive completed? Learn more about it HERE
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