Estate Planning Attorney: The Basics of Probate
In California, probate is the legal process of transferring assets from a deceased person to their heirs. It can be stressful, costly, and can take months or even years to complete. Probate is also used to ensure a decedent’s outstanding debt is paid to creditors and that assets are distributed according to the estate plan. In the absence of a will, probate decides how the assets are distributed to the next of kin.
The good news is the probate process does not have to be a long and drawn-out process. With the help of an estate planning attorney, you can create an estate plan that shortens or even eliminates the need for probate. In most cases, this is accomplished by creating a Trust.
It should be noted that not all assets will need to go through probate after a person passes away. Assets that are owned jointly or have beneficiaries named will pass directly to that person. Such assets often include:
- Jointly owned real estate
- IRAs, annuities, or assets with a beneficiary named
- All purchases placed in a Living Trust
- Bank accounts, including checking, savings, CDs, or brokerage accounts with a Transfer on Death provision that names a beneficiary
- Small gifts of your personal property
Because these assets will be passed outside your plan (and beyond the supervision of a probate judge), it is crucial to make sure your beneficiary designations are up to date. If you have divorced, you may also need to update your beneficiary designations to remove your ex-spouse.
At The Law Offices of Jonathan G Stein, I am always available to answer any questions about probate and estate administration that you have. To discuss your planning needs or how to help your family avoid probate when you are gone, contact me at 916.247.6868 to schedule a consultation.