People can face a challenging time after the death of their California loved ones. Not only must they deal with the difficult emotional aftermath but also the often complex practicalities of transferring property, closing accounts and ensuring the wishes of the deceased are respected. While many people think of a will and going to probate court when they consider property transfers after death, some transfers can be completed without going to probate court.
Non-probate asset transfers
Whether you need to go to probate court to handle estate administration depends on a number of factors, including the amount of money and the type of property in question. Certain types of property are frequently transferred outside of the probate process. For example, a person and their spouse or partner may own property as joint tenants or they may share a joint bank account. This means that the spouse equally owns these items in full and there is no need to transfer them in probate. Similarly, most life insurance plans, investment funds and retirement funds have a named beneficiary to receive the accounts after the owner’s death.
Estate planning to minimize probate
Many people may also plan their estates in order to minimize the use of probate courts. They may create living trusts to handle the distribution of their property after death rather than primarily relying on a will.
Spouses may also have an easier process to claim their share of community property, and, depending on the length of the marriage, all or almost all of the property involved may be considered community property. Here, a spousal property petition may be sufficient to resolve the probate issue. In addition, the value of the estate may have an impact on your probate court experience. Non-formal probate cases may be sufficient for estates that have a total value of $166,250 or less, but larger, more valuable estates may make probate court a necessity.