Do All Estates Go to Probate Court, or Can I Avoid It?

The loss of a family member is a life-altering event that can take time to process. Moving past the experience can be made more difficult by a long and tedious will or probate process. Cataloging, distributing, and selling your loved one's belongs can make the grieving process even harder. Many people find it difficult to talk about their wishes and plans for their estate before their death, leaving their loved ones to deal with it alone after they’re gone. If a house is part of the estate, it will likely have to go through probate. When trying to determine whether your loved one's estate will require probate, you may want to allow a family law attorney to review the details of your situation.

What is Probate?

Probate is a legal process giving the executor of the will the right to distribute assets to a deceased person’s dictated beneficiaries. Not every estate needs to go to probate, but it's more likely to when it involves real estate. If your loved one died without a will, then their estate will likely have to go to probate, but even estates with a will sometimes end up in probate court. Whether an estate will need to go through probate depends on state law and any preparations made by your deceased loved one.

4 Ways to Avoid Probate of Your Estate in California

There are several legal options available to help you transfer property early to help you avoid probate. You can work with a family law attorney to pick the proper legal action for your situation.

  • Make it a Gift: By turning assets in your estate into gifts when you die, you can save your heirs the headache of dealing with probate. If you don't own the assets at death, you can help avoid probate of your real property.
  • Joint Property Ownership: When a property is owned jointly with another person who has the "right of survivorship," the other owner automatically receives the property upon the other owner's death. There are two forms of joint property ownership – community property and joint tenancy.
  • Transfer on Death Registration: When you register your vehicle with the state of California, you can select the vehicle to transfer to another party upon death automatically.
  • Living Trusts: A living trust can hold many of your assets to help avoid probate. Assets like bank accounts, real estate, and vehicles can be placed in a living trust. The owner of the property can be named as the executor, and they can assign a successor trustee to take over once the trustee dies. Once the successor trustee takes over, they can transfer assets from the trust to beneficiaries without dealing with the probate court.

Palmer Rodak & Associates can help you develop an estate plan to protect your assets from probate. Don't wait until it's too late to prepare. Call us today at (760) 573-2223 to schedule a consultation.