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Probate & Trust Administration

What Happens After Someone Has Died?

After a loved one passes, the decedent’s burial and memorial arrangements need to be made. This means that a family member steps forward to take care of the arrangements. If there is no Estate Plan, a family member (or members) pay(s) for the funeral expenses.

Even though the family is grieving, they still have to inventory the decedent’s property and debt, pay remaining debts and bills of the decedent, distribute property to intended heirs, and file final reports and tax returns to conclude the decedent’s affairs.

Depending on whether the decedent died without a Will, with a Will, or a Trust, the designated family member will be responsible to handle the decedent’s affairs and distribute the assets.

Under the California Probate Code, no person shall act on behalf of the estate for 40 days following the death of the deceased.

After the death of an individual no legal action can be taken in regard to the Decendant’s Estate. However, we recommend that you take the following actions before the 40 day period has expired (click on sections below or download checklist):

What to Do When a Loved One Has Passed Away

  • Critical Care Event
  • Is your loved one an Organ Donor?
    • If so, the body is handled by the hospital.
      • Upon conclusion of Organ Donation, body is transferred to the hospital morgue.
  • After death, call the mortuary to arrange transportation.

Post Death Handling of Remains:

  • If a loved one dies of natural causes - call your local mortuary.
  • If cause of death is unclear call 911.
  • Once cause of death is determined:
    • Follow DPAHC to arrange transportation to mortuary or other location
  • Make arrangements consistent with Estate Planning documents.
    • Burial, cremation, services, etc.
  • Order 10 Death Certificates.
  • Make financial arrangements with the funeral home.
    • Trust pays
    • Family pays
    • Pre-paid funeral
  • Keep records of funeral payments.
  • Notify Family. Clear dates for Funeral.
  • Notify Employer, Pension Provider, Social Security and Veterans Administration.

*Note: Limit notifications to those listed above. Further notification may be required 40 days following the death of the decedent.

  • Attend to the needs of the decedent’s dependents and pets.
  • Change all exterior door locks.
  • Collect all keys/change security codes of the decedent's home.
  • Photograph home contents.
  • Take possession of all paperwork and records. Box and store paperwork securely off-site.
  • Take possession of vehicle keys. Gather & confirm vehicle registration & insurance.
  • Secure loose valuables. Remove all: jewelry, cash, coins, guns & collectables to a safe location off-site.
  • Arrange for caretaker to occupy the decedent's residence if vacant.
    • Caretaker is to be instructed that no one is to remove anything from home without Trustee's or Executor’s approval.
  • Contact your local funeral home so they can assist you in this process.
    • Embalmed or cremated?
    • What type of funeral service will you be having?
      • Funeral - Service before burial/cremation
      • Memorial - Service after burial/cremation
      • Graveside - Service is at a graveyard
    • Prepaid, Family Paid or Trust Paid
    • Funeral scheduling: when, where, how many people, how much?
  • Obituary.
    • Specific group affiliation (Military, Religious)
    • Submit obituary of loved one to local newspaper/online
  • Flowers/Wake
    • Arrange flowers and food for after the service
  • Payment
    • Trust
    • Family
  • Gather documents for Funeral Expenses
    • Direct
    • Reimbursed
    • Pre-Paid/pre-need
  • To administer the Trust, the successor Trustee will be required to follow the terms and conditions of the Trust Agreement, including, but not limited to, inventory of all assets and debts, accounting to the beneficiaries, payment of debts, payment/transfer of assets to beneficiaries, and completion of compliance requirements (tax returns).
  • Contact attorney to complete the Administration of the descendant's Estate or Trust Estate.
    • Bring documents to appointment.
Pink flowers on a casket

How Do I Handle My Loved One’s Financial Affairs?

How well the decedent prepared his/her estate plan determines how simple or difficult it will be to sort out the financial affairs. At H & K Law, we strive to provide the easiest and most cost-effective plans to finalize your loved one’s financial affairs.

We're here for you during these difficult times. If you don't know where to turn, please get in touch.

Let us help

Probate is required in California if:

  1. The gross value the estate exceeds $166,250.00.
  2. Title to Real Property is held in the name of the decedent.

A formal Probate will take approximately 12-18 months to complete and the attorney's fees and fees for the personal representative of the estate are set by statute.

For example, attorney's fees for a $500,000.00 gross estate value are $13,000.00, $13,000.00 for personal representation; for total fees of $26,000.00. The fees are based on the gross value of the assets in the estate, not the net value (assets minus debt).

Executing a Will does not avoid Probate. A Will provides directives on how property is to be distributed to beneficiaries and appoints executor(s) of the will. However, a Probate is required if the decedent has property in his/her name.

If a person dies without a Will (intestate) the Probate Code will determine the identity of the heirs (family) and how property is to be divided. Again, a formal Probate Petition is required if the value of the decedent’s estate exceeds $166,250.00.

If the decedent executed a Trust during their lifetime, Probate can be avoided if their property was properly transferred into the Trust, or other arrangements made for distribution by operation of Law (beneficiary designated).

Accounting to beneficiaries, distribution of the net Trust, the successor trustee will be required to administer the terms and conditions of the Trust, which includes payment of the decedent’s final expenses, payment of Trust expenses, compliance reporting, providing the beneficiaries with an accounting, distribution of the net Trust estate, and preparation of final tax returns.

Most of these tasks would also be required, in some manner, with a Probate. However, completion of a Trust Administration can generally be handled in six months (sometimes sooner, depending on when the trustee obtains the requested information) as compared to 12-18 months for a Probate. In general, a Trust Administration is less expensive, less time consuming, and is confidential when compared to a Probate.