When it comes to estate planning, most people focus on figuring out how to distribute their assets and establish heirs to inherit their belongings. While this is certainly important, the last thing you want to do is make the inheriting process difficult. 

Though establishing a clear will can help remove confusion, there’s one legal process that confuses many beneficiaries and estate holders alike: probate. Your California estate planning attorney can help you better understand how probate works, but every state has different requirements in place. So, is probate mandatory in California? Let’s take a look.

probate litigation

What Is Probate?

Probate is a judicial procedure during which the court distributes assets to designated beneficiaries according to an individual’s will. The assets can be anything from physical property to the money housed in bank accounts. 

The main purpose of probate is to make sure the assets are distributed in complete accordance with the deceased’s will. The process effectively validates the will and reduces the risk of contests or disputes that may slow down the process or cause undue strain on the beneficiaries of the estate.

Unfortunately, probate can create delays in the distribution of the estate and it can be expensive if you’re not prepared.

Probate Is Required for Some Assets, but Not All

In the state of California, probate is required for most estates. But there are exceptions for estates that have a total value of $166,250 or less. These smaller estates can use an expedited and simplified probate process that helps distribute assets faster. 

There are also exceptions for certain insurance policies and retirement accounts with designated beneficiaries already in place. Assets held in trusts with designated trustees may also be exempt from probate and properties that pass on to a surviving spouse may also be distributed without going through the probate process.

Why Avoiding Probate Can Be a Good Idea

Though probate is considered a standard part of the estate administration and distribution process, it’s something that many Californians may want to avoid entirely. Here’s why:

  • Probate can be expensive. Most courts assess fees that the estate must pay as part of the process. Those fees can add up to thousands of dollars and could impact the amount of money that designated beneficiaries receive.
  • Probate slows down the distribution process. The court must weigh in on the distribution of assets and this can add weeks to the process after a loved one passes.
  • The court is in complete control. During probate, the court renders decisions about the estate. If you have a clear idea of who you want to inherit specific items or assets, leaving it to the court can be stressful and may not guarantee that your wishes are upheld.

If you’re looking for ways to avoid probate so you can have complete control over the way your assets are distributed, the best thing you can do is reach out to an experienced California estate planning attorney.

Speak With an Experienced California Estate Planning Attorney

If you’re worried about the possibility of your estate being subject to probate, don’t ignore it. Schedule a consultation with an experienced California estate planning attorney. At Jackman Law, we believe that your final wishes should be honored. Our team will work to help you create a solid estate plan that outlines your wishes and sets your chosen beneficiaries up for success.