Probate Lawyer San Bernardino

In the face of loss, dealing with legal matters like probate can add stress to an already emotional time. At Alden Law Firm, we strive to ease this burden by providing compassionate and comprehensive legal services for probate claims in San Bernardino. Mathew Alden is a probate lawyer who is equipped with a deep understanding of probate law, ensuring your loved one’s estate is administered with diligence and care. 

Embarking on the probate process may feel daunting, but you don’t have to navigate this journey alone. Call us today at 909-414-0797 for a free consultation. Let us stand by your side, guiding you toward resolution and peace of mind.

Probate Law in San Bernardino: What You Need to Know

Probate, a legal term that might seem daunting at first, is a crucial part of estate planning and administration. It is the legal process through which a deceased person’s estate is administered and distributed. Whether you’re planning your estate or managing the estate of a loved one, understanding probate law, especially in a locale like San Bernardino, is critical. 

What is Probate?

Probate is the court-supervised process of gathering a deceased person’s assets, paying off their debts, and distributing the remaining assets to their heirs or beneficiaries. This process is required when the deceased left a will (and in some cases, even if they did not) and owned assets in their name alone.

The Probate Process in San Bernardino

In San Bernardino, as in the rest of California, the probate process begins by filing a petition with the probate court in the county where the deceased person lived. A personal representative (an executor or administrator) is appointed by the court to manage the estate.

This person’s duties include locating and securing all of the decedent’s assets, determining their value, paying the decedent’s debts and taxes, and, finally, distributing the remaining assets to the rightful heirs or beneficiaries.

Probate and Wills

If the deceased person left a will, it would be submitted to the probate court. The court will verify the will’s validity, and if approved, the assets will be distributed according to the terms of the will.

Probate without a Will

If a person dies without a will, or “intestate,” their assets will be distributed according to California’s intestacy laws. Typically, the assets go to the closest relatives, like a surviving spouse, children, or parents.

Probate and Estate Taxes

California does not have a state estate or inheritance tax. However, the estate may be subject to federal estate tax, depending on its value.

Avoiding Probate

There are several legal mechanisms to avoid probate in California, like creating a living trust, adding payable-on-death designations to bank accounts, or holding property in joint tenancy.

The Role of a Probate Lawyer

A probate lawyer can provide invaluable assistance during the probate process. They can help draft wills, provide advice on estate planning, guide personal representatives through the probate process, and represent family members in probate court disputes.

Types of Probate Litigation at Alden Law Firm

  • Will and trust contests
  • Suing a trustee (for a trust) or personal representative (for a probate estate) for breach of fiduciary duty
  • Removal of personal representative or trustee of the estate
  • Contesting the appointment of a trustee of personal representative to be in charge of an estate
  • Determination of what assets belong to an estate or trust
  • Suing individuals who are in possession of estate property
  • Contest of an accounting
  • Lawsuits involving the interpretation of a will or trust
  • Elder abuse lawsuits
  • Determination of heirs to an estate
  • Litigation of creditor claims
  • Wrongful death lawsuits

Understanding the Legal Process 

The loss of a loved one is a distressing event, made more challenging when disputes arise over the decedent’s estate. In such instances, probate and trust litigation may be necessary to resolve conflicts and ensure the deceased’s wishes are honored. For those living in San Bernardino, it’s vital to comprehend the specific processes in place for such litigation within the local legal framework. 

Starting the Litigation Process

The litigation process commences when an interested party (usually a beneficiary, an heir, or a trustee) files a petition with the probate court. This petition can be for various reasons, such as contesting a will, challenging the actions of an executor, or seeking clarification on the interpretation of a will or trust.

Notice & Response

After a petition is filed, the court provides notice to all interested parties, who then have a chance to respond. Responses typically involve supporting or contesting the petition. This step ensures all parties can present their viewpoint.

Discovery Phase

Once responses have been filed, the discovery phase begins. This process involves gathering information to support each party’s claims or defenses. It may include interrogatories (written questions that must be answered under oath), depositions (sworn, out-of-court oral testimonies), and the exchange of documents.

Settlement Discussions

Often, parties will attempt to resolve the dispute through settlement discussions or mediation before going to trial. A successful settlement can save time, reduce legal costs, and decrease stress for everyone involved.

Going to Trial

If a settlement cannot be reached, the case goes to trial. Both sides will present their arguments, supported by the evidence gathered during the discovery process. After hearing all arguments and reviewing the evidence, the judge will render a decision.


If a party is dissatisfied with the court’s decision, they may have the right to appeal to a higher court. However, appeals can be costly and time-consuming, and there’s no guarantee the outcome will be different.

The Role of a Probate Litigation Lawyer

A probate litigation lawyer is essential in navigating the often complex landscape of probate and trust litigation. Their knowledge and experience can guide you through each stage, from filing or responding to a petition, through discovery and trial, and even during appeal if necessary.

Debunking Probate Myths

When it comes to estate planning and asset distribution after someone passes away, probate often comes into play. However, there are numerous misconceptions surrounding probate that can lead to unnecessary worry and confusion for individuals and families. 

Myth #1: Probate Is Always Lengthy and Expensive

One of the most prevalent myths about probate is that it’s always a lengthy and expensive process. While it’s true that probate can take time and incur costs, especially for complex estates, not all probate cases are drawn-out affairs. In many instances, probate can be relatively straightforward, particularly if the deceased had a well-drafted will and organized finances. Additionally, probate costs can vary depending on factors such as the size of the estate and whether there are any disputes among beneficiaries.

Myth #2: Probate Will Deplete the Entire Estate

Another common misconception is that probate will deplete the entire estate, leaving nothing for the beneficiaries. While it’s true that probate costs, such as court fees and attorney fees, are typically paid from the estate’s assets, this doesn’t mean that there will be nothing left for beneficiaries. In fact, the primary purpose of probate is to ensure that the deceased’s debts are settled and that the remaining assets are distributed to the rightful heirs according to the terms of the will or state law.

Myth #3: Probate Is Only Necessary for Large Estates

Some people believe that probate is only necessary for large estates with significant assets. However, the threshold for probate varies by state, and even relatively modest estates may be subject to probate depending on local laws. Regardless of the size of the estate, if there are assets that need to be transferred to heirs or creditors, probate may be required to facilitate the process legally.

Myth #4: Probate Is Always Contentious

While it’s true that probate can sometimes lead to disputes among family members or other beneficiaries, not all probate cases are contentious. Many probate proceedings are carried out smoothly and amicably, especially when there is a clear and comprehensive estate plan in place. Additionally, alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation can often help resolve conflicts without the need for lengthy and costly litigation.

Myth #5: Estate Planning Can Completely Avoid Probate

While effective estate planning strategies such as trusts can help minimize the assets subject to probate, it’s not always possible to completely avoid probate altogether. Certain assets, such as those held solely in the deceased’s name without designated beneficiaries or joint ownership, will typically need to go through probate. However, by incorporating various estate planning tools and techniques, individuals can streamline the probate process and ensure that their assets are distributed according to their wishes.

Probate is a necessary legal process designed to ensure the orderly distribution of assets after someone passes away. While there are misconceptions surrounding probate, understanding the facts can help alleviate concerns and facilitate a smoother probate process. 

Why You Need a Probate Attorney 

In the wake of a loved one’s passing, the legal ramifications may be the furthest thing from your mind. However, estate administration – specifically, probate – often becomes an unavoidable part of the journey toward resolution and closure. The probate process can be intricate and daunting, especially in a specific locale like San Bernardino with its unique local laws and courts. In such a scenario, having a probate attorney can be an invaluable asset. 

Understanding Probate Law

Probate law is complex, with rules and procedures varying from one jurisdiction to another. A probate attorney can help you understand the specific laws in San Bernardino, ensuring you’re fully aware of your rights, responsibilities, and the procedures you need to follow.

Efficient Estate Administration

An experienced probate attorney can guide you through the probate process, ensuring all steps are correctly and promptly executed. They can help with tasks like identifying and appraising the estate assets, paying off debts and taxes, and distributing assets to beneficiaries. Their expertise can prevent costly mistakes and delays.

Handling Disputes

Disputes frequently emerge amidst the probate process, stemming from conflicts between beneficiaries or between the executor and beneficiaries, which may escalate to legal proceedings. In such cases, enlisting the assistance of a seasoned probate attorney proves invaluable, as they can adeptly mediate these disputes, striving towards amicable resolutions, or diligently represent your interests in court should litigation become an unavoidable recourse.

Estate and Tax Planning

Probate attorneys offer an extensive range of invaluable services, extending from expert guidance on estate and tax planning to the meticulous execution of strategies aimed at minimizing potential estate taxes and facilitating the seamless transfer of assets to designated beneficiaries. This comprehensive support encompasses adept assistance in drafting wills, establishing trusts, and deploying various other indispensable estate planning tools tailored to meet the unique needs and objectives of their clients.

Representation in Probate Court

In the event that your loved one’s estate necessitates formal probate proceedings within a court of law, entrusting the expertise of a probate attorney proves indispensable. Such a professional will not only serve as your staunch advocate but will also meticulously undertake the responsibility of preparing and meticulously submitting all requisite documentation to the court, articulating on your behalf, and adeptly addressing any legal hurdles or claims that may arise throughout the probate process.

Assistance with Non-Probate Assets

Not all assets go through probate. Assets like life insurance payouts, retirement accounts, and jointly held properties pass directly to the named beneficiaries or surviving co-owners. A probate attorney can guide you through the process of transferring these non-probate assets.

Get in Touch with a San Bernardino Probate Attorney

In the complex landscape of probate claims in San Bernardino, the path to resolution can be a challenging journey. Alden Law Firm is dedicated to shedding light on this intricate process, ensuring you are not alone in this time of transition. Seasoned probate attorney Mathew Alden is ready to help you navigate through the complexities of probate law, offering guidance, support, and the reassurance that your loved one’s legacy is handled with utmost care. 

Reach out to us today at 909-414-0797 for a free consultation. Allow Alden Law Firm to be your compass, guiding you toward resolution and peace of mind in your probate journey.