Understanding how probate works can inform your estate plan. You can make the right choices depending on your goals for your estate, your intended beneficiaries, and other factors.
Review these California probate basics if you have been thinking about planning your estate.
The purpose of probate
When a person dies, his or her executor starts the probate process by filing a court petition. You choose an executor you can trust and name this person in your will. During probate, the court ensures the will is valid and supervises the executor as he or she appraises the estate, identifies the beneficiaries, pays estate debts and taxes, and transfers estate property to the beneficiaries.
Not every California estate requires probate. Currently, estate assets valued at more than $166,250 must go through probate. With a smaller estate, your heirs can use a simple affidavit to claim their assets as specified in your will. Your executor also has to notify creditors about the estate. They have four months to file possible claims for court review.
Probate and nonprobate assets
California allows some assets to bypass probate. The total of your probate-eligible estate does not include the value of these exempt assets. Examples include assets held in a trust, assets you own along with someone else and accounts with a designated beneficiary such as life insurance and retirement accounts.
Probate usually takes six months to a year. However, conflicts or questions about your will can delay the process. Careful estate planning can help make the probate process as seamless as possible for your family members.