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Frequently Asked Questions

Answers from an Experienced San Francisco Estate Planning Lawyer

At the Law Offices of James O'Neil, we are proud to offer experienced, effective estate planning, probate, trust administration, and litigation services to clients throughout the Bay Area. We strive to create professional and reliable relationships and keep our clients informed and educated each step of the way.

When it comes to planning an estate or navigating the probate process, we understand that many people may have questions or concerns. Here, we aim to answer some of the most common questions our clients may have. Of course, if you have a specific question that you still need to be answered, do not hesitate to reach out to our San Francisco estate planning lawyers right away.

If you have questions or concerns, contact us at (415) 992-3123 and schedule a consultation with a trusted San Francisco estate planning attorney from Law Offices of James O'Neil right away.

  • What is probate and trust administration?

    Probate administration is the court-supervised process following a person's death in which a personal representative is appointed to gather the assets and identify liabilities, to give notice to beneficiaries and creditors, resolve legal disputes, pay creditors and transfer the remaining assets to beneficiaries. Attorneys are paid a percentage of the value of the estate. The process is designed for estates where no trust was established and the total value of the estate is over $150,000.

    This differs from trust administration, where the decedent established a trust. This is the process following a person's death in which a personal representative is appointed to gather the assets and identify liabilities, to give notice to beneficiaries and creditors, resolve legal disputes, pay creditors, and transfer the remaining assets to beneficiaries. Unlike probates, attorneys are paid on an hourly basis, the court is not usually involved, and administration may continue for decades.

  • What is estate litigation?

    Law Offices of James O'Neil represents estate representatives, such as trustees, executors, and administrators; beneficiaries; and/or creditors during a legal dispute over the estate of a deceased person. We frequently represent beneficiaries who seek to recover assets they would have inherited if not for some form of financial elder abuse.

  • Why should I create a will?

    Wills establish directives for property, finances, debts, and assets in the event of your passing. Your will can also name heirs and define your wishes for funeral arrangements and burial. Having a will can help bypass or expedite probate, too.

  • What happens if I do not have a will?

    In the event that you pass without a will, your property will be determined as intestate. All property in question will be inventoried and sold to repay creditors. Remaining assets and property can then be distributed to heirs.

  • Do I need a trust?

    In many circumstances, trusts can help establish how property and assets will be distributed upon your passing. There are a variety of different trusts available that can help to transfer property from an estate, reduce taxes on an estate, and ensure that heirs receive assets.

  • Who needs a power of attorney?

    In any event that you are unable to make decisions for yourself due to mental incapacitation or physical removal from a location, a power of attorney could be beneficial. Elderly individuals, military members, healthcare patients, businesses, and even guardians could all benefit from a legally sound power of attorney.

    Should no power of attorney be in place, a conservatorship may be required. This is the court-supervised process for having someone appointed as the agent for the estate to control the assets and liabilities, or person, such as control over healthcare, well-being, and end-of-life decisions, of an incapacitated individual who does not have a durable power of attorney and/or advance health care directive.

  • Do I need a lawyer?

    Yes, for any estate planning or probate concern, it is always recommended that you work with an experienced attorney that will keep you informed and educated about your specific process. James O'Neil meets with clients in San Francisco, Berkeley, and San Rafael, and serve individuals and families from across San Francisco, Alameda and Marin counties.

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