In California, probate settles a deceased person’s estate and is required in California if the estate is worth more than $184,500. It typically occurs when the deceased person died without a will, but it can occur even if the deceased person did have a will if they owned real property that is subject to probate.
Probate can be a complicated and drawn-out process for both the executor and the estate’s heirs. This process involves filing a will (if there is one) in court, identifying and notifying heirs, and handling the payment of debts and taxes associated with the estate.
It is essential to understand which assets are subject to probate and which are not so that the estate can be settled efficiently and without any financial losses or disputes among heirs.
How Long Does Probate Take?
The probate process can be complex and time-consuming, especially if the deceased left behind substantial assets or real estate. When filing for probate in California, the executor must go through several steps, including: filing a petition with the court; providing notice to creditors and beneficiaries; collecting information about all assets within the estate; filing necessary tax returns; paying off creditors and distributing remaining assets among beneficiaries according to instructions in the will or state law.
Ultimately, the length of time probate takes will depend on the complexity of the estate. The entire probate process typically takes between nine months to two years.
Assets Subject to California Probate
In California, any property owned by an individual is subject to probate, including:
- Real estate
- Personal property
- Bank accounts
- Stocks and bonds
- Life insurance proceeds (if no beneficiary in the policy is named)
- Art and jewelry
- Intellectual property
Assets Not Subject to California Probate
However, any assets that are owned in joint tenancy or held in trust may bypass the probate process altogether. Avoiding the probate process can save time and money, as well as keep the asset distribution private. It also makes it easier for heirs to access their inheritance quickly.
Common examples of assets that are exempt from probate in California include:
Right to Survivorship
When you own a property with someone else and you have the right to survivorship, it means that if one of you dies, the other will get to keep the whole property. This way, when one person dies, the property does not have to go through the long legal process of probate.
Another way to avoid probate is by setting up a trust. When you transfer to your living trust all of your property that is subject to probate, you make that property exempt from court supervision when it comes time for distribution after death. A living trust also outlines how and when certain assets will be distributed after death, ensuring that heirs get their proper inheritance in a timely manner.
By designating a beneficiary to your 401(k)s, IRAs, and any other retirement accounts you may own, ownership transfers automatically to that beneficiary without being subject to the probate process. Designating both a primary and an alternative beneficiary can provide added protection.
Payable-on-Death (POD) Accounts
When a POD account is created, the owner names one or more beneficiaries who will receive the balance of the account when the owner passes away. The benefit of this type of account is that it allows individuals to keep their assets private as well as accessible without going through lengthy probate proceedings. Funds in a POD account can also be accessed quickly, allowing beneficiaries access to funds almost immediately after death.
Life Insurance Policies
Life insurance policies with a designated beneficiary are also exempt from probate so money paid out from these policies can be accessed quickly upon the decedent’s death.
How the Law Office of Mitchell A. Port Can Help
The Law Office of Mitchell A. Port can help guide you through every step of the process so you can rest assured your family’s interests will be protected throughout probate.
Give us a call today at (310) 526-3433 or fill out our online form to schedule a consultation.