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California Lawyers Association

Your Orange County Probate Lawyer

Bill Sweeney

Why should you select me for your probate matter? I am Bill Sweeney with over 40 years of legal experience. In addition, I am proud to hold a Bachelor of Arts degree in Accounting (B.A.), Master of Business of Administration degree (M.B.A.), Juris Doctor degree (J.D.) and a post-doctoral law degree in Taxation (LL.M). With years of experience and education, I am able to assist with all aspects of a California probate.

Unlike other attorneys that handle many areas of the law, I have devoted my practice solely to California probate. I am a highly experienced and dedicated attorney handling probate matters throughout California, including probate matters in Orange County, California.

I have assisted many Orange County families with their probate legal rights and options. Because California probate law and Orange County probate rules are complex, it is important that you retain a qualified probate attorney and not try it alone.

Anyone who believes they can probate an estate without a probate attorney is often unpleasantly surprised. Probate gives rise to procedural and substantive detailed issues. This is particularly true in an estate managed by an inexperienced executor with little or no financial experience or legal background.

Executors and personal representatives have a number of legal responsibilities, including various court filings, etc. Without knowing those processes, and the stress of losing a loved one, you may not wish to take on the task of a probate on your own. You do not have to endure the stress on your own, or deal with the complexities of a California probate. With my knowledge and experience I ensure that your probate matter proceeds with no mistakes and that specific timelines are met.

If you have been named as a personal representative for the estate of a loved one, understanding the function of the probate process is essential.

The Basic Probate Process

Probate is detail-oriented, time-consuming and often involves complex family dynamics. However, it should be pointed out that there are occasions where a probate is not required. For example, assets in joint tenancy, community property with right of survivorship, or assets in a trust, do not go through probate. The same is true for bank accounts and tax deferred investments, where a payable-on-death (POD) beneficiary has been named.

However, for assets that need to be probated, the California probate process is basically as follows:

  • Court validation of the Will and court appointment of a personal representative for the probate estate. If there’s a will, the executor named in the will should initiate the process. If there’s no will, or the person named to serve as executor is not available, then another person, usually a family member, can ask the court to be appointed as personal representative of the probate estate. The will, if there is one, may not be self authenticated and must be shown to be valid.
  • Probate Referee. The court clerk will appoint a probate referee. The probate referee is responsible for declaring the value of the probate estate.
  • Inventory. After the personal representative has marshaled all the assets and determined what there is in the probate estate an inventory and appraisal is prepared and provided to the court appointed probate referee for appraisal of probate assets. Once the inventory and appraisal is received from the court appointed probate referee, the personal representative then files the inventory and appraisal with the court and that becomes public record.
  • Safeguard probate assets. During probate, it’s the personal representative’s job to keep all assets safe. If there is an improved property, such as a house, it must be insured and maintained; personal property, including heirlooms and jewelry, must be safeguarded from theft or damage.
  • Pay claims against the estate. In California, creditors have four months to come forward with their claims. Many estates don’t receive any formal claims from creditors. Instead, the personal representative simply pays outstanding bills (for expenses of the final illness, for example). If there isn’t enough money to pay valid claims, the estate may be insolvent. After administrative costs, California probate law sets priority in which claims are to be paid from estate assets.
  • Pay taxes. The personal representative is responsible for filing tax returns for the deceased person and for the estate, including income taxes and federal estate taxes, if applicable. Applicable taxes must be paid prior to closing the estate.
  • Distribute remaining assets. Finally, when all bills and taxes have been paid, the personal representative asks the court to close the estate. That’s when the personal representative can distribute all the estate assets to the people who inherit them.
The Guidance You Need to Pursue the Results You Want

California probate law is a complex field and, practically speaking, requires an attorney's guidance. I provide you with comprehensive counsel, along with friendly and personal service. I go through a very thorough intake process with each client, which enables me to develop the right approach to any given situation and to provide services in a more efficient and cost-effective manner. If you need California or Orange County probate representation, please contact me for a free consultation at (949) 243-0408 or through my online contact form.

Client Reviews
Earlier this year, we were searching for an attorney to process a Heggstad Petition. We did a search on Google and read an article that was written by William Sweeney. The article was very clearly written and expressed almost the exact situation we found ourselves in, so I emailed William to interview him. He spent a good amount of time (for free) listening to the background of our situation...I highly recommend William for probate/Heggstad issues in California. Emma
I would highly recommend hiring Mr. Sweeney for your Probate or Heggstad petition needs! He was amazing and super easy to work with! He had my Heggstad drafted and filed within 1 week from when I provided all the info to him. 60 days later, I hear that the Judge granted everything asked for in the petition. John
Bill Sweeney and his incomparable paralegal Jennifer Fejzic represented and advised me through the probate of a parent's estate. Having practiced law myself for over 30 years, I expected expertise, precision, and wisdom -- all of which Bill and Jennifer richly delivered, promptly and at a reasonable, indeed more than fair, fee. I recommend Bill and Jennifer with gratitude and confidence. Greg
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