Many decedents’ estates end up having to pass through California’s probate court system in some capacity. Probate court is the legal process through which estates are settled in accordance with relevant federal, state, and local laws, in addition to any estate planning documents the decedent might have created. California’s probate system is not as arduous as other states’, but it is advisable for anyone creating an estate plan to take steps to avoid it, as it will save your loved one’s time, money, and stress after your passing.
Of the many benefits that trusts offer, the main one is arguably the avoidance of probate court. In a living trust (which can be revocable or irrevocable), assets and property are placed in one pool that is managed by the trustor until he or she no longer has capacity. After the trustor loses capacity, the designated trustee assumes ownership of the trust’s contents and distributes them in accordance with the terms of the document.
If the total value of real estate that is left in your estate is less than $20,000, then your estate will not have to pass through the courts at all. For this to be the case, you also must have personal property that is valued at no more than $100,000. Real estate that is valued at more than $20,000 but less than $100,000 must pass through probate court but will avoid multiple hearings and a drawn-out process.
State law allows you to attach a payable-on-death designation on your bank accounts that you wish to transfer to beneficiaries upon your passing. This does not relinquish any control you have over your accounts while you are still living. For other assets, like real estate and vehicles, you may attach a “transfer-on-death” designation, and the title will be transferred to your named beneficiary upon your passing.
Property that is owned jointly between you and someone close to you, such as your spouse, can be automatically transferred to your joint owner after your passing. Jointly held properties must have the right-of-survivorship designation for this to occur and for your survivors to avoid probate.
If you are concerned about the effect your estate’s litigation in probate court would have on your loved ones, there are numerous steps you can take to mandate minimal contact with probate or to be able to avoid it altogether. Contact Carroll Law Office for a free consultation.
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