As you continue to accumulate wealth throughout your life in California, a big part of your estate planning activities likely will center around the issue of which of your assets will wind up in your probate estate and which will not. As you likely already know, California is a community property state. This means that half of whatever property you and your spouse or partner accumulate during your marriage or registered domestic partnership belongs to you and half belongs to him or her.
Whether or not your half of the community property, plus all of your separate property, will become part of your probate estate depends on the way in which you own the various pieces of it at the time you die. Fidelity.com explains that, in general, the following types of property are subject to probate:
- Cash and cash accounts
- Personal property such as antiques, artwork, etc.
- Real estate that you own in your sole name
- Assets you own as tenants in common with someone else
Property not part of your probate estate
Much of the property you own likely will not become part of your probate estate, including the following:
- Anything you own with someone else in joint tenancy with right of survivorship
- Anything you own solely, such as a retirement account, vehicle, etc., that has a transfer on death or payable on death designation
- Any life insurance policies you own that have designated beneficiaries
- Any assets you have placed into a trust with one or more designated beneficiaries
Given that probate can be a long, drawn-out and expensive court procedure depending on the size and value of your probate estate, you may well wish to use trusts and other direct-pass methodologies in your estate plan so as to leave as little as possible in your probate estate. Such planning also makes it easier and quicker for your heirs and beneficiaries to receive the property you want them to receive.
This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.