Probate is the court-supervised process of estate administration and property distribution after an individual dies. In California, probate can be a lengthy and expensive process. Legal fees - which are based on the size of the estate - and court costs can eat up a significant portion of any estate. Fortunately, it is possible to avoid probate in California with some careful estate planning.
A will must be probated, so using a will as the primary estate planning vehicle is not a good strategy if one wishes to avoid probate. Strategies to avoid probate include the use of living trusts, in which assets are transferred to the trust during the individual's lifetime and titled in the name of the trust. Because the assets in the trust are legally owned by the trust, they do not become part of the individual's estate upon death and do not have to go through the probate process.
Another legal strategy to avoid probate is the re-titling of assets during the person's life. For example, titling a house in joint tenancy with right of survivorship and naming the client's spouse or children as joint tenants will keep the home out of probate. Similarly, bank accounts can be titled so that they transfer on death to designated family members.
Our founding attorney has been practicing estate planning law in Sacramento for over 25 years and is committed to helping each client prepare an estate plan that meets their unique needs and circumstances, and keeps them out of probate. For more about ways clients can avoid probate in California, please visit our Avoiding Probate web page.