Is avoiding probate possible in California? When?

For those in California who understand how complicated and contentious probate can be, the chance to avoid it should be considered. When estate planning, the person should also be aware of the options in avoiding probate. An example of when it is possible to avoid probate is if the property falls below a certain amount. If the person who died left $150,000 or less to the heirs, then it might not be necessary to go through the probate process.

A person who is legally entitled to inherit property such as a bank account or stocks could avoid probate if the value falls at or below $150,000. With the circumstances in place, the simplified process can be used to transfer that property into the person's name. The property value will be determined based on what it was worth on the date that the person died and not what it is worth at the moment. There are certain factors that must be remembered. If it is declared real property such as a house, this cannot be done. There is a form that must be filled out if the amount left was $150,000 or less. It is the Petition to Determine Succession to Real Property (Estates $150,000 or Less). With that there will need to be another form of Inventory and Appraisal filled out and notice given of a hearing.

When trying to use the simplified process for $150,000 or less, the value of the property must be calculated. The real and personal property and life insurance benefits paid to the estate must be included. Excluded will be vehicles, real property outside the state, property in a trust, property subject to joint tenancy, life insurance or death benefits not subject to probate, unpaid salary or compensation up to $5,000 at the time of death, debts and mortgages, and bank accounts owned by multiple people including the decedent.

If the amount is $150,000 or less and 40 days have gone by since the death, the property can be transferred via an affidavit. If it is possible to avoid probate, this is an alternative for asset distribution that the heirs will want to take advantage of. Having help from an attorney experienced in estate planning and avoiding probate is essential to using this alternative.

Source: courts.ca.gov, "Wills, Estates, and Probate -- If the Person Who Died Left $150,000 or LESS," accessed on May 16, 2017

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