Life After Mother — Probate Doesn’t End, Just Fades Away

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Probate doesn’t end in a way that calls for marking the occasion. In my case anyway, it looks to be fading away like an old soldier, in a series of overlapping tasks, actions and projects, some of which could’ve been avoided with estate planning.

Probate could be defined as the legal process by which authority and ownership is transferred from the deceased to the living, simple enough, but any complications make for serious stress. My mother’s refusal to settle her own affairs, leaving me to take care of “everything” once she was dead, was largely responsible for what is a fairly small amount of property, all going to one person — me — taking such a long and winding road.

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Early this year I noticed my lawyer (my second one) was responsible for a few hitches in the process. I looked into changing lawyers again. The ones I spoke to, though, all said the final hearing was scheduled for March 24 so, in essence, it was too late to change horses.

After the hearing the judge’s order had to be dated and filed, which took until April 21. When the paper was issued, it took three pages of words to say that my mother’s house, securities, and accounts were now mine, and the lawyers were getting paid. It took until mid-June for the order to reach my lawyer’s office and be forwarded to me.

Transferring neither the securities nor the deed concluded with that court order, though. A few days after the hearing I had to sign papers with my financial advisor, the one the lawyer had arranged for — someone I don’t know if he’s compatible with my financial goals or not. Those papers were supposed to be the process by which my name was put on the securities and the dividends issued to me. 

Weeks are becoming months, though, and I have yet to see a dividend check, even though I requested they be mailed, not electronically deposited, because I want to see them myself. I called the financial advisor, and asked how long to expect the checks, and he answered, a check was in the mail. We’ll see!

I also had to visit my lawyer’s office more than a month ago to sign and get notarized a paper to have the deed to my mother’s house granted to me. The paper had to be sent to the county clerk-recorder, and then, once the grant deed was recorded, the original and a copy sent to me. The grant deed just arrived in my mail days ago.

Now I have to write a letter to the county assessor concerning my claim for Homeowner’s Property Tax Exemption, which I’m qualified for under Proposition 58 that was passed in 1986, which applied to tax assessments on real estate transfers between families. I say “applied” because Proposition 19, which took effect Feb. 16, 2021, applies to transfers begun after that date. End probate, begin taxes, maybe?

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