Do You Have to Go Through Probate? Here’s How to Avoid the Lengthy Process in California


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  • Do You Have to Go Through Probate? Here’s How to Avoid the Lengthy Process in California

The probate process involves settling a deceased person’s estate under the supervision of the court. The process can take a long time and strain people who are already coping with the death of a loved one.

Do you have to go through probate?

Not if you live in California. Several other options are available for the legal transfer of a deceased person’s estate. Let’s look at these alternatives in detail.

Alternatives to Probate in California

Probate is unnecessary if the deceased has shared their estate through the following means:


If the deceased transferred ownership of their properties to beneficiaries, those assets will not be subject to probate. These include properties gifted to others before they died.

Living Trusts

California residents can have their property held in a living trust to avoid probate. Bank accounts, real estate, vehicles, and other tangible assets can all be in a living trust and pass to a trustee after the owner dies. The trustee will then transfer the assets to beneficiaries according to the deceased’s wishes and without going to probate court.

Joint Ownership

In joint ownership, when one party dies, the surviving owner acquires the right of survivorship and full ownership of the jointly owned assets. Californians can enter two forms of joint ownership to avoid probate:

·         Community property with right of survivorship

·         Joint tenancy 

Payable-on-Death or Transfer-on-Death Arrangements

California law permits payable-on-death bank accounts, which allow all the money in a deceased’s account to pass to a specified beneficiary upon death. Transfer-on-death vehicle registrations facilitate the automatic passing of a vehicle to a stated beneficiary upon the owner’s death. Note that these provisions for avoiding probate exist in only California and a few other states.

Claiming Property with a Small Estate Affidavit

California probate law allows inheritors to bypass the probate process if the deceased’s assets are worth less than $166,250 but more than $55,425. All a beneficiary needs is to file a small estate affidavit to avoid probate through this process.

Why Can Californians Avoid Probate?

The California probate process exists to ensure the peaceful and legal distribution of a deceased’s assets. Unfortunately, following the full probate process to distribute assets can be:

·         Expensive, tedious, and time-consuming (lasting up to two years in some cases)

·         Potentially embarrassing when the probate documents become public record

·         Contentious if beneficiaries dispute how the legal representative executes the deceased’s instructions

·         Unpredictable when a judge who doesn’t understand the family’s needs handles the distribution of assets.

Before attempting to avoid probate, please consult a probate law firm to ensure that you go about the process the right way.

Let Us Help You Avoid Probate of Your Estate with a Well-Written Estate Plan

At Klosek Law Offices, we can help appoint the executor or administrator of your estate. Better yet, let us provide you with legal advice regarding the best options for avoiding probate on your estate after your death. For instance, we can place your assets within a trust, life insurance policy, or retirement account.

The tailored estate plan we provide you will protect your loved ones from the cost and frustrations of probate. Please contact us at Klosek Law Offices today to schedule a consultation to discuss your options. We have four locations in Northern California—in Sacramento, Palo Alto, Folsom, and Elk Grove—so we will meet with you at the location most convenient to you.

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