Estate planning in California involves understanding what probate is, how it is likely to affect your loved ones after you pass on and what you can do now to simplify the process for your survivors. Not everyone in California has to worry about probate, but those who do have strategic estate planning options available to either shorten the process or avoid it altogether. 

According to The Motley Fool, if your estate is small, it may be eligible for a simplified probate process. In some cases, it may not be necessary for your estate to go to probate at all. In either scenario, it may be more trouble than it is worth to take steps to get around probate. However, if you have a substantial estate, you may want to consider the following strategies to maximize your loved ones’ inheritance by avoiding probate.

Gifts

Instead of bequeathing certain assets to people in your will for them to inherit, you can give them to your intended beneficiaries as gifts while you are still alive. That way, you ensure that the people you choose get what you want them to have while reducing the size of your estate. Be careful of the value of the assets you give away, however. If it goes above certain benchmarks, the IRS could impose a gift tax. 

Joint property ownership

If two or more people’s names appear on the title or deed to a house, car or another piece of property, they are joint owners. The right of joint ownership supersedes anything that appears in a will. If one owner dies, the other(s) automatically inherit the property. This can be an effective way of avoiding probate, but there are potential pitfalls involved. 

Living Trust

A common solution is to place the assets in a revocable living trust. This gives you access to continue using them while you are alive and allows your beneficiaries to receive their property after you pass. Property held in trust is not subject to probate, so this is a popular option for avoiding it. However, there are costs involved in setting up a trust.

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only.