How to Avoid Probate in California

In California, you can create a living trust to avoid legalizing virtually any asset you own, such as real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, etc. A trust document is similar to a will and names someone to assume the position of trustee after your death (called a successor trustee). Joint ownership is another way to avoid succession when the first owner dies. To take title before another person in a way that avoids succession, you indicate on the paper that proves your ownership (a real estate deed, for example) how you want to hold the title.

Usually no additional documents are needed. Trusts are attractive when it comes to avoiding probate because property held in trust is not part of your estate after your death. The reason? A trustee, not you, controls trust property and is required to distribute it under the terms of the trust agreement. The easiest way to avoid succession is to simply create a living trust. A living trust is an alternative to a last will and allows you to designate how your assets will be distributed, establish health care directives, and more. Joint tenure with the right to survive non-testamentary property is an option to avoid succession if there is no will.

However, the only way you can really avoid succession is to establish a living trust. Trusts usually cost a fraction of the price that the probate process will cost and save time and unnecessary stress when handling the affairs of a deceased person. You can also donate your assets to other people before you die. This will help you avoid owning the assets at the time of your death and subjecting them to probate. Many types of assets, particularly savings, investment or retirement accounts and life insurance policies, ask you to name beneficiaries.

Upon the death of the owner, ownership is automatically transferred to the designated beneficiaries. The will is the legal process by which assets and assets are transferred from the possession of a deceased person to their heirs or beneficiaries. Since wills don't prevent succession, is there a way to keep a person's assets out of the court system? Yes, skipping the will and drafting a living trust. After your death, the trustee can easily and quickly transfer the trust assets to the family or friends to whom they left them, without legalizing. Generally speaking, you can't avoid probate court because you will be required to pay your bills and distribute your estate under the laws for intestate succession if you die without a will. The will is a court-administered process, therefore, a lawyer is generally involved and an executor must be present to direct the proceedings. Property that automatically passes to a surviving landlord is known as “non-testamentary property” and is not subject to probate court under the California State Probate Code because there is a document that clarifies who will receive it. If you want to save your loved ones from the problems that are often associated with probate, there are ways to do so with the help of a California estate planning lawyer.

Probate assets that would still be subject to probate court would include those that are your exclusive property at the time of your death. In probate, there are court fees that are taken from gross estate (the amount of the entire estate before debts are paid). A number of costs such as filing fees, newspaper publishing fees and attorneys' fees as well as several other outstanding items are also associated with the probate court and can accrue quickly. To ensure that your descendants keep their financial affairs private and minimize costs associated with transferring assets to their heirs, it's important to understand how probate works and how it can be avoided. Bank and other accounts that are paid in the event of death go directly to your designated beneficiary without going through an estate.

Some actions may require help from an attorney experienced in estate planning but others may be quite simple.

Kathleen Huelsman
Kathleen Huelsman

Infuriatingly humble social media maven. Amateur internet expert. Award-winning music junkie. Extreme problem solver. Extreme twitter buff.

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