After a person dies, probate is a legal proceeding in Superior Court which is used to account for a person’s assets, pay the bills and transfer the remainder of the estate to heirs. If there is a will, the person named as executor is charged with the responsibility of making sure the probate is conducted properly. If there is no will, there are statutory provisions set out by California law as to who may be appointed as the executor. Once an executor is appointed, the executor will make an inventory of assets, locate creditors, pay the bills, file tax returns and manage the estate assets until the remainder, if any, is passed on to the heirs. California Probate Code §10810 provides the amount of statutory fees attorneys can charge for a probate.

Guardianships – A guardianship occurs when the Probate Court appoints an adult, who is not a child’s parent, to take care of the child and/or the child’s assets. Thus, there are two types of guardianship, one over the person and one over the assets. In most instances, the same adult is appointed for both the guardianship of the person and the assets. A guardian is responsible for the child’s care and welfare including the clothing, shelter, safety, medical, educational, special needs and maintaining assets. We can provide you with the guidance needed in setting up and maintaining a guardianship. You may need an attorney to help guide you through this process. My office is here to help you if you need it.

Conservatorships – A conservatorship is a guardianship of an adult if the court finds that the adult (conservatee) is unable to care for themselves or manage their finances due to disability, mental health or age related issues. Again, as with a guardianship, there are conservatorships of the person and of the estate. If you feel the need for an attorney to help you, please contact my office.

If the conservatee names a potential conservator, that nomination is given preference, but if the conservatee is incapacitated and did not name someone as a potential conservator, the law provides in order of preference, a conservator to be a spouse, adult child, parent, sibling, any other acceptable person or the public guardian. There are numerous issues, duties and responsibilities in setting up and managing a conservatorship. You should have an attorney help guide you through the process. My office is here to to educate and compassionately guide you through these processes.

Trust Administration – a trustee is a fiduciary who has many responsibilities in administering a trust estate and may be personally liable for losses if the trust is not managed correctly. If you are appointed as a trustee, an attorney can help provide you with guidance on your duties, rights and options.

Contested Issues in Probate – disputes may arise during the appointment of or actions taken by a guardian, conservator, executor and trustee. Not everyone is happy when control of a person or estate is given to a family member or a third-party that the other family members do not believe is, or has not been, responsible, reliable or worthy of the appointment. Disputes also arise from the interpretation or enforcement of wills and trusts along with the rights of the beneficiaries. If one particular heir or third-person receives a majority or all of the estate and the remaining heirs receive very little, the remaining heirs may claim that those who received the most of the estate unduly influenced the trustor or decedent to “sign away” their estate without regard to the remaining family members or heirs. Our office even has experience in dealing with whether or not a valid marriage occurred between a purported husband and wife as that had an impact on the estate plan of the decedent. If you feel that you earned the right to an inheritance or control of a person’s estate, please contact an attorney and my office is here to help.

Kevin L. Dorhout, Attorney at Law, APC serves the needs of Probate clients in Ventura County (Westlake Village, Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park, Simi Valley, Moorpark, Fillmore, Camarillo, Ventura, Oxnard, Oak Park, Santa Paula) and Los Angeles County in the west San Fernando Valley (Agoura, Calabasas, Hidden Valley, Oak Park, Van Nuys, West Hills, Northridge, Woodland Hills) and is located in Westlake Village. Please feel free to contact Mr. Dorhout to set up a free initial consultation.