The probate process can be a daunting and overwhelming experience, especially for those who have never gone through it before. In California, as in many other states, probate is legally mandated in certain circumstances, but there are actually ways to avoid it for certain situations and particular types of assets.
Probate is a special court process that occurs after someone who owns property or holds financial assets dies. Probate involves a court authority overseeing the distribution of the deceased person’s assets, which includes:
Completing all of these steps can take time. In California, the probate process typically takes several months to complete, with cases regularly stretching out to 2 years or more, depending on the complexity of the estate, the disposition of the potential heirs, the quality of your legal help, and other factors.
The probate process does not begin in a courtroom but with the filing of a formal petition for the court to open a probate case. Once the court receives the necessary paperwork, it will then appoint an executor or administrator to oversee the distribution of the estate. This party is responsible for the actual process of gathering and inventorying all of the deceased person’s assets, paying off debts, taxes, or other liabilities held by the estate, and distributing any assets to all beneficiaries.
While probate is required in many cases (and attempts to circumvent the legal probate process can result in serious consequences), there are also several types of assets that can be kept out of probate proceedings fairly easily. Here are some examples:
If you are unsure how to protect your estate from undue interference by the probate court, it is recommended to work with an experienced estate planning attorney to determine the right approach to meet your individual circumstances.
While it’s true that probate can be tedious and expensive, the results of trying to circumvent probate without the proper legal tools in place can be far worse. Remember, probate is not optional; it is required by California law. Failing to properly engage with the probate process can result in serious consequences:
The California probate process can be a complex and time-consuming experience. We have great empathy for anyone facing it and look forward to offering you comprehensive estate planning strategies for minimizing the assets that will go into probate court upon your passing. However, it is also important to understand that probate is crucial and necessary in many cases to ensure that assets are distributed properly and that your heirs are not taken advantage of.
A: If the probate process is not filed correctly in California, it can result in delays, added costs, and even legal liability. The court may reject an improperly filed petition, resulting in frustration for the parties trying to access their inheritance.
A: There are several effective ways to keep assets out of probate in California, including:
A: Currently, a Californian’s personal estate must be worth more than $184,500 in total to require probate. However, if the decedent owned any real estate in their own name, probate will automatically be required—even if the estate has significant debts and is worth less than $0 in total. Note that the value of an estate is calculated by adding the total current worth of all assets held solely in the name of the deceased at the time of their death.
If you have questions or concerns about the California probate process, Sweeney Probate Law is standing by to help. We are proud to help clients all over California protect their funds, their legacies, and their families. Our experienced team has helped countless individuals navigate the complexities of California’s probate system, and we are committed to providing compassionate, personalized legal guidance to help you achieve your goals and protect your loved ones. Contact us today for help.