Top 5 Reasons to Avoid Probate in California

Most of you have probably heard that it’s wiser to avoid probate court.

After all, going through probate can be an arduous task for the surviving heirs and beneficiaries.

Many people do not know what probate is, what the drawbacks are, and most importantly, how they can avoid it. Let me share with you the basics of probate and five compelling reasons why you need to avoid probate in  San Diego CA.


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What is probate?

A probate is a court-supervised process through which a deceased person’s estate is properly distributed to heirs and designated beneficiaries and any debt owed to creditors is paid off.

If the deceased left a valid will, an estate will undergo probate if it has assets that are valued over $150,000. The process will include validating the will and distributing the estate’s assets according to the terms of the will.  What if there if there is no last will and testament? If there is no will, it is through the court-supervised probate process that the remaining assets will be distributed.


Why is probate something one wants to typically avoid?

Here are five reasons why you may want to avoid San Diego CA probate process.


  1. Stress and emotional issues for the family

Many families have been torn apart by issues that can arise after the death of a loved one. The truth is, some families get along and some do not. In fact, it’s common to see bickering or battles between heirs in a probate process. It is a process that is often contested.

With a solid estate plan in place, you get to choose who makes the decisions, not the court. You get to choose who gets what and reduce the possibility of any conflicts that can ruin family relationships.


  1. The cost of probate can be very expensive

Probate can cost a lot of money. It is is much more expensive than a trust that starts around $2500. That is only 10% of a $500,000 estate.

In a probate process, you have to pay fees to open the estate, to obtain letters of authority, to publish for claims, to pay the inventory fee, to file petitions, and to obtain orders. In addition, the attorney and Executor are entitled to receive fees payable from the deceased person’s assets. These costs can add up quickly, but cannot be paid from the estate. Avoiding probate means avoiding these court fees.


  1. Probate takes time

Probate is a long process because it involves many documents and forms that must be filed with the court. Many actions also require the court’s supervision.  Sometimes, it can take more than two years to complete. During the process, your family will not have access to the assets in the estate.

Who is paying the expenses of the estate during this time? Someone needs to pay the mortgage, taxes, utilities, maintenance, security, disposing of unwanted possessions in the property, preparing the property for sale and more. That means your family could be left paying for these expenses out of pocket.


4 Probate can affect your privacy

Since it is a public process, going through probate can eliminate your family’s privacy.  Much of you and your family’s personal information and documents will be available on public record at the courthouse. The debts, the assets, and the distributions made through probate are made public.

All of this information can be accessed by anyone by simply contacting the probate court. This can negatively impact your family’s privacy and gives opportunities for creditors and criminals to find and harass your family.


  1. Probate takes away your sense of control

In a probate process, a judge who doesn’t know you nor your family will be responsible for making decisions regarding how your assets are to be distributed. The court may choose someone to be an heir of your estate, but it may not be the same person you would choose to receive your assets.


Given these five reasons, it makes more sense to avoid probate altogether. If you have more questions, don’t hesitate to call me, Dennis Smith at 760-212-8225. We can help you navigate the probate process.


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 have several great ones.