Using estate planning to avoid probate
By Barbara Craig, Attorney at Law
Probate is the legal process in which the courts validate your will and grant your executor or administrator the power to transfer your assets to your heirs either the way you specified in your will, or as dictated by California intestacy statutes if you do not have a will.
Many people think that just having a last will and testament is enough to distribute assets when you die. But a will only tells your heirs what you want to happen with your property when you die – it does not give your executor the authority to actually do it. If you own real estate or have significant personal property and do not have an estate plan in place, upon your death, your estate will most likely need to be probated.
Probate cases tend to move very slowly in California courts, since there are many steps involved such as ensuring creditors are paid, property is identified, and title to assets are transferred correctly. The costs of probate in California can also be quite high.
There are a few ways to avoid the probate process:
- If you own any property jointly or have beneficiaries listed on your assets, and those people are still living when you die, that property is not subject to probate.
- If the value of your estate is less than $150,000, your successors may be able to receive your personal property without going through probate.
- Estate planning procedures, including preparation of a last will and testament and establishment of a revocable trust, can transfer all of your assets to the trust and bypass probate.
Fortunately, avoiding probate is easy if you plan ahead. The benefits of probate avoidance include minimizing taxes on your estate and lowering the costs of estate administration, resulting in greater benefits and less difficulties for your loved ones.
To contact experienced estate planning attorney Barbara Craig about estate planning, wills, trusts, or probate, please click here.
Photo courtesy Gabriel White