When you die, your property will be distributed to the heirs you leave behind. If you create a will before your death, it will determine how property is distributed. If you don’t create a will, the state will decide. In either case, distribution cannot occur until a lengthy process known as “probate” has been completed. However, if you plan carefully while you are alive, you may be able to avoid this process altogether.
About Probate in California
In the state of California, probate is necessary only for estates with values over $150,000. At the beginning of the process, the court appoints an individual to act as administrator or executor. This person is responsible for overseeing probate. During probate, the court settles the deceased person’s debts and distributes all remaining property to heirs as determined by the will.
Individuals in California can avoid probate in several different ways, including:
- Transfer-on-death vehicle registration. – Residents of California can use transfer-on-death registration to transfer a vehicle to an individual after death without the need for probate.
- Transfer-on-death deeds. – In the state of California, you can create a transfer-on-death deed for real estate. When you die, this deed transfers ownership of the property to the person you name.
- Payable-on-death bank account designation. – California allows individuals to add “payable on death” designations to their bank accounts. Accounts with this designation will pass to the named person when the owner dies.
- Joint ownership. – When you own property jointly with another person and the right of survivorship is included, the property will pass to this person automatically when you die.
- Living Trust. – A living trust helps you avoid probate by creating a separate legal entity that acts as owner of your property. When you die, the trust distributes your property to the beneficiaries of your choice.
Contact the Law Office of Kurt D. Elkins
Here at the Law Office of Kurt D. Elkins, we understand all of the complex laws that apply to estates in California. We can help you accomplish all of your estate planning goals, including the avoidance of probate. If you are already involved in a probate case, we can also help you navigate the process. Please contact us today to learn more about our services or to schedule a consultation.