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Understanding the Probate Homestead Exemption

Most in Woodland Hills would likely list their homes as being among their most valuable possessions. That’s likely due to the fact that one’s home is much more than just a simple investment building equity. Rather, it offers peace-of-mind in knowing that one always has a place that he or she as well as his or her family can rely on to provide comfort and protection. Yet for all of the intrinsic and financial value that a home may have, it is surprising how little so many do to protect it in the event of their deaths.

The common line of thinking is that when one dies, the ownership of his or her home will automatically pass to his or her surviving family members. However, that is not always the case. Imagine if one had named a former spouse as being entitled to inherit the home in his or her will, yet forgot to update it after he or she remarried. Or, worse yet, what if one were to die intestate? Such a scenario is not hard to envision, given that information shared by Forbes shows that 62 percent of Americans aged 45-54 have not prepared wills. Could one’s surviving spouse and children really lose his or her home to a former beneficiary or creditors?

California has created a law known as the Probate Homestead Exemption to address such scenarios. It specifies that the court, at its own discretion, may set apart the use of one probate homestead for the use of one’s surviving spouse and/or minor children. This right to use the homestead only continues until the surviving spouse dies or the children reach the legal age of adulthood. After that, it becomes subject to administration according the rights of either testate or intestate succession.