Question 1: What is Probate?
Probate is legal process through which a deceased person’s property must proceed before a new legal owner can be identified. Probate is designed to evaluate what a deceased person owned, as well as what kind of debts the person had. The property the person owned is used to pay off the debts, and anything left over is distributed to his or her inheritors.
Question 2: Does all a Person’s Property go Through Probate?
No. Some property is specifically exempt from having to be probated. For example, if you own a home as a joint tenant with the right of survivorship with your spouse, your spouse will become the sole owner of the property upon your death without having to go through probate court first. Additionally, if you have property which names a beneficiary, such as a life insurance policy or retirement account, the beneficiary will automatically inherit the property upon your death, also without having to go through probate. In California, for estates worth less than $15o,o00, there may be a quicker alternative to probate.
Question 3: What About Property Transferred to a Revocable Living Trust?
If you create a revocable living trust and successfully transfer property to it, that property will also avoid probate. However, it’s important to remember that you must fund (transfer property to) the trust properly or else any property that is left out or improperly transferred will not be protected and will have to go through probate.
Probate in California is an expensive, public and time consuming process. With the help of an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney, you can tailor your estate plan to avoid probate.