Probate is time-consuming and costly.
The process can be lengthy and tedious for everyone involved. It also involves a lot of expenses that can diminish the value of the estate passed down to beneficiaries.
This is why most people would rather choose to avoid the probate process in California. Doing so doesn’t have to be difficult. There are simple and effective ways to ensure that your properties pass directly to your heirs, without going through probate court.
Here are some ways to avoid probate:
- Put your property in a living revocable or non-revocable trust
The most straightforward way to avoid probate is to place your property in a Living Revocable or Non-Revocable Trust. It happens when you transfer property to someone else (the trustee) to hold it for your benefit. However, you still reserve the right to revoke the trust.
A living trust means that the trustee actually owns the property, but he or she must use it for your benefit under the terms and conditions of the trust. When you give ownership of the property to the trustee, the property is no longer a part of your estate and can avoid the probate process entirely.
- Make sure the assets are titled in the trust’s name
You have to ensure that you formally transfer title to your assets in the name of the trust. Otherwise, your beneficiaries will run into legal problems after you pass away. Even with a trust, your home could still go through probate if your trust fails to properly identify your home.
When you refinance, put the property back in the trust. Most banks will not refinance a house in a trust. When you take the home out for the refi, remember to record a transfer of the title back into the trust.
- Name “Pay on Death” beneficiaries for retirement and bank accounts
You can also avoid probate by naming pay-on-death beneficiaries on retirement and bank accounts. To get started, all you have to do is request and fill out the payable on death forms that your brokerage company or bank will provide.
You can also avoid the probate of real property if it is held as joint tenancy with a right of survivorship or if a transfer-on-death beneficiary is designated on California’s new Transfer on Death deed. Owning jointly allows the property to pass through to your spouse or significant other without going through probate.
- Stay poor or give it away before you die
You will go to probate if you have more than $50,000 in real estate or a total of $150,000 in assets. To avoid probate, you can simply give your property away before your death. If you don’t own it when you die, it doesn’t have to go through probate. However, you have to be aware that gift taxes apply if the gift is in excess of a certain amount.
Using one or more of these strategies can help you avoid probate in California.
Just remember that what will work best for your will depends on your family and financial situations.
If you have more questions, don’t hesitate to call me, Dennis Smith, at 760-212-8225. Let me be of service to you!
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. If you need a referral, please contact me as I know of several great ones.