Navigating Compassionately–A Client’s Journey Through California Probate


Losing a loved one is never easy, and dealing with the legalities that follow, including California probate, adds an extra layer of complexity to an already challenging time. What exactly is probate? Probate means there is a court case that deals with:

  • Deciding if a will exists and is valid;
  • Establishing who are the decedent’s heirs or beneficiaries;
  • Figuring out how much the decedent’s property is worth;
  • Taking care of the decedent’s financial responsibilities; and
  • Transferring the decedent’s property to their heirs or beneficiaries.

At Hamlin | Cody, we understand the importance of providing not just legal counsel but genuine support during these sensitive times. A recent experience with one of our clients exemplifies this commitment.

Navigating California Probate Law:

Our client’s brother, who resided in California, passed away over the holidays, leaving his sister to navigate the intricate legal landscape as the named executor in his Will. The situation was somewhat unique in that her brother had no spouse, no children, and no real property. He did however rent an apartment, have some valuable personal property, and various bank accounts. His Will designated our client as one of three beneficiaries and named her as his executor. Faced with confusion and many questions about what to do next, our client, residing out of state, turned to Hamlin | Cody for guidance. 

The complexities of estate management can be overwhelming, especially when geographical distances are involved. Our experienced team stepped in to guide our client through the intricacies and provide her much-needed support. We found that her brother’s estate was small enough to be handled without going through the formalities of a probate court case. We explained how, answered questions, and delicately guided her through the process that she and her co-beneficiaries would undertake to receive their gifts as provided in the Will. We were honored to receive a recent email in which our client expressed her gratitude in a recent email sharing her thoughts, “You provided so much more than legal advice, and I really appreciate it. I felt supported and like I had an advocate. It was priceless. Thanks for everything.

Executor Misconceptions:

Our client’s situation brings attention to an essential aspect of estate planning often misunderstood by many – the role of the executor. While a person may be named as an executor in a will, they are not officially appointed until a court order and Letters Testamentary are issued. This misconception can lead to confusion, as individuals may believe they can immediately undertake executor responsibilities, such as accessing the deceased’s bank accounts. Absent a court order, the person named as an executor in a will does not have the authority to draw on a bank account, not even to pay the deceased’s bills.

In our client’s case, her brother had thoughtfully planned, leaving behind certain financial accounts with beneficiary designations in place. Those kinds of accounts seamlessly transfer to the designated beneficiaries with just a little paperwork and are not calculated in valuing a person’s estate. His remaining assets, valued at under $50,000, prompted our consideration of California’s affidavit process for handling small estates, a process readily undertaken by beneficiaries without resorting to probate court. Our team worked closely with our client to navigate this process and ensure the affidavit process was successful. Whatever our client’s circumstance, we are committed to providing tailored legal solutions that respect their unique situation.

Hamlin | Cody’s Commitment to Compassion

At Hamlin | Cody, we believe in going beyond the legal realm to offer compassion, understanding, and unwavering support. Our client’s experience highlights our dedication to making a challenging time more manageable, one step at a time. If you find yourself in a similar situation, we are here to guide you through with expertise and empathy. For personalized legal assistance, contact Hamlin | Cody – your trusted partner in estate planning and probate matters.