When someone passes away and leaves assets to be distributed, such as real estate, bank accounts, and other financial investments, their estate goes through a process called probate. An estate goes through this process whether or no they have will. During probate the court will name an executor (if there is a will) or an administrator (if there is not) to complete the process. This person will be responsible for paying off any remaining taxes and debt to creditors, and distributing the assets to beneficiaries.
Benefits of Avoiding Probate
The probate process is not preferable for a few different reasons. In addition to putting more stress on surviving loved ones, probate costs money, can take a lot of time (which means that assets are not distributed for a while), and also can create a public record of the will, which many people wish to remain private. While probate is generally required in the state of California, there are certain situations in which one’s assets are able to avoid it.
Assets Held in Joint Tenancy
When someone who passes held an asset in joint tenancy, the asset is able to avoid going through the probate process because it simply goes to the other joint tenant. This is the case whether the asset is real estate or purely financial.
Real Estate Held as Community Property
Real estate that is held as community property is also generally able to avoid going through the probate process.
Financial Assets that Name a Beneficiary
When the individual who passes had a financial asset, such as a bank account or brokerage account, that names a beneficiary, that asset can avoid going through probate.
Assets Held in Trust
One of the most well-known ways of avoiding the probate process is by placing them in a trust. Assets held in a trust do not go through probate. However, it’s important to note that the assets in question must name the trust – and not an individual – as the owner.
However, there are certain assets that are unable to be placed into a trust, such as retirement accounts, health savings, vehicles, and cash. These assets must be held be an individual person. However, by naming someone as a beneficiary of this type of asset, they can still avoid the probate process.
A Proper Estate Plan Can Make All the Difference
Therefore, if you place all assets in a trust and name a beneficiary for all of the assets that are unable to be held in a trust, your estate could avoid probate. Since the probate process is different in different states, you must also repeat the probate process in any state in which you have property. This can cost additional time and money. That’s why having a well thought out estate plan is so important.
Biddle Law Can Help
If you or a loved one is looking to establish or amend an estate plan, a knowledgeable and experienced California estate planning attorney who knows the current laws and has experience dealing with such subjects can help.
At Biddle Law, we are here to answer all of your questions and walk you through the process. We care about you and your loved ones and want to help in any way we can. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, contact us today!