How to Avoid Probate in California
When someone dies, their money, property, and other worldly goods becomes part of their estate, which must be transferred to their heirs and beneficiaries. The court proceeding known as probate was created to transfer property from a decedent to his/her heirs. However, probate is an expensive process that takes between 12-18 months to complete. Since it is a court proceeding, all documents submitted to probate, including the decedent’s will and an inventories and appraisal of property, are public and can be viewed by anyone. For these reasons many people wish to avoid probate. Fortunately, in California there are many ways to avoid probate. Read on to learn more.
Create a Revocable Living Trust to Avoid Probate
One of the simplest ways to avoid probate is to give your money and property away as a gift during your lifetime. However, gift giving has tax implications, and gifts are not revocable. A better way to avoid probate is to transfer most or all of your assets to a revocable living trust. A person can set up a living trust during their lifetime and serve as both the trustee and beneficiary. The trustee/beneficiary maintains complete control of her assets, and when she passes away, the assets will be distributed according to the terms of the trust. Assets in the trust do not go through probate.
Create Transfer on Death Deed or Payable on Death Accounts
Another way to avoid probate is to create a Transfer on Death Deed or Payable on Death Account. California allows Transfer on Death Deeds for real estate. Transfer on Death Deeds are easy to prepare and can be recorded with the county clerk naming a beneficiary. California Transfer on Death Deeds are fully revocable.
Similar to Transfer on Death deeds are Payable on Death Accounts. These are for bank accounts and other cash assets, and are free to set up. Transfer on Death Accounts are also available for securities, such as stocks and bonds. Transfer on Death Deeds and Payable on Death Accounts may be transferred with a death certificate and do not require probate. Similarly, many life insurance plans and pension plans allow the plan holder to name a beneficiary. Accounts with named beneficiaries are not part of the estate and will not go through probate. However, if the named beneficiary in any of these types of accounts dies before the decedent, then those accounts will be part of the estate and be probated.
Take Title with Right of Survivorship
Other assets that do not require probate are joint tenancies with the right of survivorship and jointly owned bank accounts. Another method of avoiding probate is community property with the right of survivorship, which means that the assets automatically transfer to the surviving spouse when one spouse dies. Similarly, if the main beneficiary of a will is a spouse, the spouse can file a spousal property petition, which is simplified probate procedure. Simplified probate procedures are also available for estates where the total value of assets in the estate are less than $150,000. These estates can be settled with an affidavit rather than probate.
There are many ways to avoid probate in California. A skilled estate planning attorney can assist with creating a plan to avoid an expensive and lengthy probate process.
At San Diego Esquire, we provide affordable probate solutions to California residents. Unlike most attorney, we offer flat fee probate services. We will prepare the legal documents you need to start and complete the probate process.
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