After a person passes away, the probate process is used to conclude all of the deceased’s financial and legal affairs. Probate court overseas the distribution of the estate using a will or the laws of the state if there is no will. In theory, probate is meant to be a straightforward process, and over the years it has evolved to make things easier for people who are not familiar with probate. Unfortunately, probate could quickly turn into a disaster and knowing when you should contact a probate lawyer for help can reduce some of the stress that occurs when the process gets too complex.

The Estate is Complicated

Even if you do not know much about estate planning and probate, there are times when you know almost immediately that settling the estate will be difficult. Estates that involve blended families (multiple children, adopted children, or step children) are often complicated, and one mistake could increase the probate process drastically. If your loved one has left a legacy that includes a large amount of property, stocks, or life insurance, an attorney may be able to help you avoid costly errors that could harm the estate.

Debt is Discovered

Once a person has passed away, the executor or court administrator will handle financial affairs such as filing a final tax return and contacting creditors. Most families have a general idea of whom their loved one owed money to, but occasionally there are unpleasant discoveries. If you find out that your loved one left a great deal of debt, contacting an attorney is a good way to determine how to handle the debt and protect the estate.

The Will is Challenged

Certain things such as verbal promises, unequal asset distribution, and the omission of a traditional heir from a will may lead to the entire will being challenged. When that happens, the inheritance of all beneficiaries is put at risk. If you fear the will is going to be challenged, then contacting a probate attorney is the best way to protect your own interests and inheritance.

An Executor is Acting Inappropriately

The primary duty of the appointed executor is to protect the estate and ensure that the final wishes of the deceased are implemented correctly. Being an executor is difficult, time-consuming, and nothing to be taken lightly. While most executors do what they can to end the probate process quickly while keeping all beneficiaries informed, some executors take advantage of their position. If you believe the executor is not following the instructions outlined in the will, is not managing the estate’s finances appropriately, and not managing his or her duties, getting that person removed with the help of an attorney is something that you should consider.


The attorneys at MMZ Law understand that all aspects of estate management and probate are difficult, especially when one is grieving. We are here to provide you with the legal advice and support that is necessary during this difficult time. If you or someone close to you needs the assistance of an attorney, contact us today and schedule an initial consultation so that we can discuss your needs.




341 W. 1st St. Suite 100
Claremont, CA 91711

MARIVEL M. ZIALCITA is the founder of MMZ LAW, A Professional Corporation, where she practices in the areas of Elder Law – Medi-Cal Planning Asset Protection, Trust & Estate, Special Needs, Conservatorship, Trust Administration, & Probate. Ms. Zialcita is a frequent speaker on trust and estate matters and holds memberships in the State Bar of California, Trust and Estate Section, The San Bernardino County Bar Association, Wealth Counsel and Elder Counsel. She currently assists in the pro bono legal services program at the James L. Brulte Senior Center in Rancho Cucamonga, California. She is based in Claremont but assists clients throughout Southern California.

This information is educational information only and not legal advice.