Probate is when a will or other form of last testament is fulfilled and assets are appropriately passed from the deceased to their heirs. The will/ last testament ideally clearly dictates who amongst the living is inheriting which items/assets the deceased owned. More simply, it means passing belongings once the person is passed. However, there is nothing simple about probate in California.
The process can be very long and very expensive. Naturally, many people want to avoid probate. Fortunately, there are other ways to make sure that your assets go to the right people, without the long wait or expense.
A living trust moves ownership of your assets from you to the trust – more specifically to the trustee of the trust. When you pass away, the trustee controls the trust and your assets are dispersed as outlined in the trust.
Living trusts need not have a probate period. Also of note, you can include most assets in a living trust including real property, cars, bank accounts, and investments, such as stock portfolios.
The right of Survivorship is a form of joint ownership. it works well with property such as a home. If you and someone own a home together, and you set it up as a right of survivorship, then when you pass the other person becomes the sole owner of the parcel. There is no probate involved in the Right of Survivorship.
Payable on death is a handy way to handle banking assets such as your checking or savings account. You would set this up through your bank. It is also sometimes referred to as an account beneficiary. If you have multiple accounts you can name multiple people as the beneficiary of each account. This means that you can leave your savings account to one person or your checking account to another. In California, Payable on Death accounts are not subject to probate.
Just as the name implies, property, automobiles, and even bank accounts can be set up to transfer to your heirs when you pass. Those people you name have no control over the assets until you are gone. That leaves you in complete control of your assets. Transferable on Death is one way to avoid probate in California.
When you make a will in California you are setting up the estate for probate. If that is concerning for you, and you want to protect your assets from certain taxes or your estate from the expense of probate, you have options. A Family Law lawyer can help to explain the options available to you. While the options we have listed here are available, they may or may not be the best fit for your estate. Talking with a family law lawyer is a good way to find out which options are best for you and your estate.
Charles D. Stark is a seasoned Counselor At Law who specializes in Estate Planning and who serves the greater Sonoma County. Whether you’re just starting your estate planning journey or have questions about existing plans, he can help guide you through the next best steps. Call (707) 527-9900 today for more information.