People often underestimate the importance of an estate plan. If you die without any legal directive as to what you want to happen with your assets, then the state steps in and makes those decisions for you. In many cases, the court will still play a role after you die because the transfer of property must go through legal channels. However, this is not always the case. There are some options you can make in your estate plan to avoid probate.

According to California Courts, probate helps ensure the legal handling of your estate. During this process, the court will make sure you will and other estate documents are valid. It will also handle the transfer of assets that you indicated in your plan. If there are heirs missing, the court also helps with locating them. It will also close out your estate by making all distributions and handling any outstanding debts.

Some property, though, transfer legally without the interference of the court. A good example is anything you jointly own with another person. Once you die, that asset becomes the sole property of the other owner. You can also create situations where something transfers ownership upon your death by using specific legal documents or a trust. Any account you have with a named beneficiary will also automatically transfer.

Typically, though, you want your estate to go through probate to ensure everything happens according to the law. The court also can manage issues and take the proper steps to make sure your heirs abide by your wishes. This information is for education and is not legal advice.