It’s always painful when a loved one passes. After death, there’s also the legal obligation of administering an estate, which often includes probate. Probate in Orange County is the process in which the decedents’ estate is settled and distributed to those entitled to receive an inheritance from the estate.  This process can take weeks, months, or even years, depending on the size and complexity of the estate. Since it can take a significant amount of time to get through the process, it’s important to be familiar with actions you can or can’t take as you move through the proceedings. 

You can’t take anything from the decedent’s estate. 

Nothing can be removed from the estate during probate, even if the deceased told you that you could have it, and even if it reads so in the will. You’ll have to wait until probate ends to receive whatever it is you’re supposed to get.

One of the things probate does is pay the creditors that the deceased owed money to before he or she died. Probate will use any cash available, and if there isn’t enough to pay debts, the family may need to liquidate assets in the estate until there’s enough money. This could mean liquidating what was promised to you if that’s necessary for paying the debts.

 You can contest the will.

 You can contest the will if you think that you’ve been unfairly cut out or entitled to more than you are receiving in the current will. You can also contest a will when you believe the will is invalid in some way, either through fraud or someone’s undue influence on the deceased. You won’t get very far contesting a will simply because you don’t like what’s in it. The best time to contest a will is during probate, before anyone has received any property. Property will be distributed once your dispute is resolved. 

You can make plans for what to do with your inheritance.

 You can make plans for what you’ll do with your inheritance once you receive it. You may even be able to use it as a promissory or as collateral for a business or other agreement. Understand, however, that if something happens and you don’t get what you were expecting, the estate won’t be held responsible if it wasn’t in error or done fraudulently.

 If you’re the executor, you can take care of the property. 

Executors have a duty to make sure property doesn’t lose value. An executor can, for example, clean the house or pay someone to maintain it. They can’t let the property lose value or make it inherently different. For example, an executor can’t renovate a single-family house into a multi-family rental unit.

If you are currently going through probate in Orange County and you have questions about what you can or can not do during the proceedings, feel free to contact our Newport Beach probate attorneys at (949) 260-1400 to schedule a consultation.