Probate: A Sad Aftermath of COVID

Probate: A Sad Aftermath of COVID

One of the sad consequences of COVID is Probate. We don’t hear much about it because it gets lost in the more immediate heartbreak of this disease. But Probates are on the rise. They are a very real consequence of dying and not having a Living Trust. When a loved one dies from COVID, families are left to settle their estates—even as they mourn their sudden and unexpected deaths.

John and Zoe are one of these grieving families

John and Zoe are a brother and sister who recently came in to our Walnut Creek office to find out about Probate. Their mother was an RN, their father an architect. Part of an emergency-room team that admitted and treated a growing number of COVID patients, their mother had been working long, punishing hours in the hospital. She never questioned that this was the place that she needed to be.

In May, after months of exposure to infected patients, their mother tested positive for COVID. While many COVID patients suffer mild symptoms and recover quickly, their mother wasn’t so lucky. Within several days she was having trouble breathing, gasping for breath as the virus assaulted her lungs. She was admitted to the hospital and her own team began treating her. She didn’t respond to any of the usual protocols and her doctors put her on a ventilator. Two days later, she died.

A week later, their father tested positive

At 60, he had asthma and had had several serious bouts with pneumonia. Their high-risk father quickly became very ill and was admitted to the same ER where his wife had worked and died. The medical team put him on a ventilator, but he was too weak to fight the virus. He died several days later.

John and Zoe were devastated. While mourning the loss of their happy, active parents, they were now confronted with the task of settling their estate. Because their parents had never created a Living Trust, John and Zoe would have to Probate their estate.

CDP guides our clients through the entire Probate process

While Probate can seem overwhelming, it is actually a very methodical process. Best of all, we guide you through the entire process, and we prepare the legal documents.

As part of Probate, the Court appoints a personal representative, or Administrator, to settle the estate, so we work directly with that Administrator throughout the Probate process. The Administrator is responsible for:

  • Collecting all of the decedent’s property
  • Paying all of the estate’s debts, claims and taxes
  • Collecting all rights to income, dividends, etc.
  • Settling all disputes
  • Distributing or transferring the remaining property to the heirs

Accessing the decedent’s accounts to determine the financial landscape

The Administrator may meet with the financial advisor, insurance agent, accountant, etc. to acquire estate information. Gaining access to all of the decedent’s records–bank statements, savings accounts and income tax returns–will help determine the financial landscape. The Administrator is in charge of valuing and selling assets, as necessary, to settle the estate’s debts or expenses.

During Probate, the deceased’s estate becomes a separate tax entity, so the Administrator must obtain a federal tax  identification number and open a bank account in the name of the estate from which to pay creditors. The Administrator will also need to file the estate’s tax return and a final individual tax return.

Distribution of remaining assets

Once all taxes and debts have been satisfied, the Court will then distribute any remaining assets according to state law.

Uncertainty has driven many of our clients to create or update their Living Trusts

The best way to avoid Probate is by creating a Living Trust. Naming your heirs and identifying how you want your estate to be distributed ensure that your family will avoid the painful Probate process.

As the COVID crisis drags on, more clients are scheduling appointments to create or update their Trusts. Our Trust package includes a Power of Attorney and an Advance Healthcare Directive. It also includes a Pour Over Will, and for those families with children under 18, this means that they can name a Guardianrather than having the court appoint one for them.

Creating a Trust helps provide peace of mind during these uncertain times. Best of all, we guide you through it and we prepare the legal documents. At California Document Preparers, for most of our services, we charge one flat fee. We’re helpful, compassionate and affordable.

We service the entire East Bay and North Bay areas

Berkeley, El Cerrito, Richmond, Pinole, Alameda, San Leandro, Castro Valley Newark, San Lorenzo, Concord, Alamo, Danville, Lafayette, Orinda, Moraga, Pleasant Hill, Martinez, Pittsburg, Antioch, Brentwood, Oakley, Discovery Bay, Pleasanton, San Ramon, Livermore, Tracy and Fremont. Our clients also live in the Napa Valley, Benicia, Vallejo, Martinez, Fairfield.