When you hear someone mention probate, it is usually accompanied by frustration. This is because for many people, this can be a lengthy process with confusing requirements. Additionally, once it’s all over, heirs often find that a good deal of their inheritance has to be devoted to paying their legal expenses. Given, these issues it is not surprising that most people would choose to avoid the headache and costs of probate altogether. The good news is that there are ways to plan for your estate which may help your beneficiaries avoid California probate.
In essence, probate is the legal process a person’s estate goes through in order to be distributed to an individual’s named heirs. To avoid California probate, you will need to find alternative ways to address the issues which probate manages. These include matters such as identifying and naming assets, debts, and beneficiaries and determining who will get what before the death of the person who created the will. One of the best ways to avoid California probate is by transferring assets either at or before the time of death.
· One option for California residents is to create a living trust. A living trust is a device which permits an individual to transfer his or her assets in a way where they no longer legally own them to be administered by a trustee for the benefit of named beneficiaries. This type of trust can be created during the trust creator’s lifetime, and in many cases, the trust creator, trustee, and beneficiary are the same person.
· Whatever property which is in the trust when you die does not belong to you and therefore does not have to go through probate before being distributed to your beneficiaries. This estate planning tool can also help your beneficiaries avoid, estate, gift, and income taxes.
· Another benefit is that you have control over how the trust proceeds are used. For example, unlike a will which merely leaves property to someone, a living trust could have conditions such as making the proceeds payable only for a beneficiary’s educational expenses.
· Additionally, a living trust can also be an effective means to preserve trust assets. When properly structured, a living trust can convey asset benefits in a manner which will protect the assets from a beneficiaries’ creditors or in the event of division of property during divorce.
Another way to avoid California probate is to own property jointly with someone else. When you own property with another person or entity in a specific manner, the surviving owners will automatically get your interest should you pass away. This is referred to as survivorship. For instance, if you own a house with your sister and father with survivorship and your father dies, you and your sister will become the owners of your father’s interest in the home.
As mentioned above, survivorship allows property interest to pass outside of probate. It can also work for other assets such as bank accounts. Having this provision enables the contents of your bank and some other accounts to become the property of anyone else named without the hassle of probate. This is important because when an account’s contents are in probate, they may not be accessible for months or even years. With survivorship in place, you can get to the funds without interruption.
With the right planning and advice avoiding California probate is possible. However, to be successful, it is vital to have the advice and guidance of an experienced California estate planning attorney. At the Law Offices of Alice A. Salvo, we have attorneys who have the experience you need to plan for the future. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.