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What is Probate?
There are four basic ways to avoid probate in California. Probate is the court-supervised process that occurs after someone passes away, even if they left a will. It ensures the estate is distributed in accordance with their wishes, and all taxes and debts are paid in full. The executor or attorney representing the estate begins this process, and a court then authenticates the will, authorizing the distribution of the estate to proceed.
Why Avoid Probate?
Time and money are the two main reasons to avoid probate. The court deducts its own fees, and like all court proceedings, this process can be expensive and drawn out, especially if the will is contested. There are other reasons to avoid probate; it’s a public process, meaning anyone can search records to access information on the value of an estate, and personal financial affairs.
How to Avoid Probate
The only way to avoid probate in California is to plan for your assets to transfer directly to your heirs. There are four main ways to accomplish this.
- Trust Agreement
Assets placed in a trust are transferred directly to the named beneficiary. It is no longer necessary for a trust to be handled by a third party. The person who creates the trust may also manage it, until the time of their death.
- Right of Survivorship
The right of survivorship doesn’t apply to bank accounts, but when two individuals share the title to a property through “joint tenancy,” full ownership can be transferred to the surviving party.
- Designation of Beneficiary
Life insurance policies and retirement accounts fall under the Nonprobate Transfer Rules in California. Funds in these types of accounts are transferred without passing through probate.
- Operation of Law
California Multi-Party Account Laws determine who owns the remaining money in a bank account after the account holder is deceased. Funds are transferred to a new account for the survivor and avoid probate.
If you have questions regarding the probate process in California, or any other estate planning needs, please contact Lewman Law for further information and assistance.