Avoiding probate is always preferred, and if you can keep your estate from having to go through probate, you should. However, there are instances in California when you can’t avoid it. There are several reasons why you wouldn’t want your family to have to deal with probate and what may cause them to have to.
Before considering how to avoid probate, it is useful to understand why an estate planner would want to avoid it. One of the most common reasons people aim to keep their estates out of probate is because the process is lengthy and, for the most part, a hassle. It also costs money. Court fees for filing a Petition for Probate are equal to a certain percentage of the value of the estate, and then there’s the cost of a probate attorney. If the will is contested, litigation costs can be insurmountable. By avoiding probate, you can also keep someone from contesting your wishes altogether.
Finally, one of the biggest reasons individuals avoid probate is because they want their financial affairs kept private. The details of cases are not kept private in probate court, and while most people have nothing to hide, they prefer information about their estate to not be privy to just anyone. Furthermore, a public notice of the deceased’s estate and/or will is a mandatory part of the probate process. This seeks to notify any other interested parties in the event they wish to file a claim against an estate. Thus, probate opens the estate up to naysayers and debt collectors.
All wills must go through probate court. One of the primary reasons for probate court is to validate wills. It also serves the purpose of making sure that the debts of an estate are paid. The executor of an estate will carry out the distribution of the remainder of the estate to beneficiaries, according to the instructions in the will.
Another purpose for probate is to establish heirs for an estate when there is no will. This is referred to as intestate. There are levels of hierarchy set by the state that the court uses to distribute assets. In either case, probate leaves room for interested parties to contest a will or the establishment of an estate when there is no will.
The question remains as to how one can avoid probate if an estate must go through probate, whether there is a will or not. There are a variety of alternatives to having a will or not having one. First, if an estate’s value is less than $166,250, regardless of whether there is a will, it is considered a small estate and can go through a simplified probate process that is also expedited.
For estates larger than $166,250, estate planners can select from the following options to avoid probate for their families:
A: In estate planning, most people avoid probate for the convenience of their loved ones. That way, they will not have to wait out the lengthy probate process or deal with the hassle of it. Other reasons to avoid probate include prevention of contests and keeping the court and the public out of their assets and other business.
A: To avoid probate in California, estate planning should include assets with a transfer of ownership upon death, payable on death, or joint ownership of financial accounts or deeded property. Designated beneficiaries should be named on retirement accounts and life insurance policies. Setting up a trust is also a secure way to avoid probate.
A: Probate is necessary whether someone dies with or without a will. If an individual carries out careful estate planning before they die, they can avoid probate by using tools like:
A: The following may qualify for an expedited and simplified process of probate:
However, the only way to avoid probate is to guarantee that all your assets are established in formats other than a will.
If you’re thinking of hiring an attorney to help with your estate planning needs, the Estate Preservation Group is a law firm that focuses specifically on estate law and trust administration. We can provide the experience and knowledge to help you alleviate the stress of probate for your loved ones. Contact the Estate Preservation Group today and get your estate in order. We can help you feel secure that your assets can be distributed precisely according to your wishes.
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