petewootton1984
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Can I do this or do I need a lawyer?

Going through a formal probate process doesn’t necessarily mean you have to work with a law firm. 

In California, most estates can be settled easily with the guidance found in a self-help manual.  But it’s important to know if you’re dealing with a case beyond the scope of books like How to Probate an Estate in California.

Estates that can be settled without the help of a lawyer are typically made up of common types of assets, such as houses, land, a mobile home, bank accounts, household goods, automobiles, collectables, stocks, money market funds, promissory notes, etc.  If the estate has more complex assets such as royalties from copyrights, or when there are questions as to the ownership of an asset or large, disputed claims against an estate, then the situation is more complicated and will most likely require help beyond the scope of a self-help book.

To manage the probate process yourself, a few other factors should be in your favour.  For example, there should be no disagreements among beneficiaries; to settle an estate without complications and without a lawyer, you need the cooperation of everyone involved.  Keep in mind also that estates valued at more than $5.25 million will face federal estate taxes as well as estate income taxes – items that an experienced accountant can manage.

The book, How to Probate an Estate in California, includes a checklist for settling a simple estate in California along with all the forms and a thorough explanation of each step.  As with so many other things in life, probating a simple estate is much like putting one foot in front of the other.  If you take it to step by step, paying close attention to the instructions, you should have little difficulty.
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