Can Probate in California Be Avoided?*

Probate can be overwhelming, costly, lengthy and stressful without the help of an attorney. The last thing anyone wants to do is leave their loved ones with the burden and stress of administering their estate, distributing assets and paying debts. If the decedent had a Will and Trust in place when they passed, or if the title of their assets were held in a certain way, Probate can essentially be avoided.

Typically, Probate needs to be opened if specific assets do not have a designated beneficiary, the value of the estate is more than $150,000 or if there are any questions as to the identity of potential heirs or beneficiaries. Determining the value of the estate is the gross fair market value of the estate (all real property, personal property, stocks, bonds, vehicles, etc.) and only includes the decedent’s share of community property. For example, if the decedent was married and the only property they owned was a house valued at $200,000, the rules for community property dictate that the decedent’s estate be valued at $100,000 as his or her spouse would be entitled to their share of the community property and a Probate case would not need to be initiated.

If bank accounts, vehicles and real property are held jointly and are titled in a way such that they are transferred to someone else upon death, Probate can potentially be avoided. When retirement accounts, life insurance benefits, annuities and sometimes bank accounts are initially opened, a “Pay on Death Beneficiary” is named. When the decedent passes, those accounts will automatically transfer to the designated payee and doing so avoids the Probate process.

*NOTE: This is a guest post & has not been reviewed by an attorney.  The information posted here is general information and not legal advice.  Do not rely, act or refrain from acting based on the information contained in this post.

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