Probate is the legal process in which, if you have only a will or no estate plan whatsoever, your assets will be collected following your death, your creditors will be paid and the remainder of your estate will be passed on to heirs specified in your will or specified by law if you die intestate. It is a process that can be lengthy, expensive and it may mean your assets will go to heirs that you otherwise would not want to inherit. For this reason, many people in Northern California will choose to execute an estate plan that avoids probate altogether.

Three ways to bypass probate

One type of estate planning vehicle that bypasses probate is a transfer-upon-death account. This is generally used for financial accounts, such as bank accounts or retirement accounts. A beneficiary will be chosen to receive the account’s assets once you die, and the accounts will thus not be subject to probate.

Another way to avoid probate is through joint ownership. Joint ownership means that title to an asset includes more than one person as the owner of the asset. If you die first, the asset is automatically transferred to the other owner without going through probate.

A third way to avoid probate is by placing your assets in a revocable living trust. Once assets are titled in the name of the trust, they will be overseen by a trustee who can be you during your lifetime and a designated third-party upon your death. Once you die, your assets will bypass probate and will be distributed to your chosen heirs per the terms of the trust. However, assets not placed in the trust at the time of your death will be subject to probate.

Creating an effective estate plan

These are only a few ways to avoid probate; there are more not covered in this post and California law on this topic may vary or include further requirements. Ultimately, this post only provides general information does not contain legal advice. Estate planning in California can be a complicated process and a do-it-yourself estate plan may not be enforceable when the time comes due to mistakes or omissions. For this reason, many people in the Danville area choose to work with attorneys when estate planning.