Estate planning allows you to direct how to distribute your belongings once you die.
With a proper strategy, you can ensure your beneficiaries receive your assets without the hassle of the probate process.
Include a living trust in your estate plan
In California, you can put virtually any asset in a living trust. The legal terms are similar to a will. However, you remain in control of the trust during your lifetime and name a successor to act as trustee upon your death. They will oversee the distribution of your assets to the named beneficiaries, who do not need to go through probate to take ownership.
Take advantage of joint ownership
California law also allows joint property owners to skip probate and take ownership of property when a co-owner dies. This includes joint tenancy of real estate, vehicles and other valuables. Right to survivorship is another form of joint ownership recognized in California. It applies to spouses and registered domestic partners with shared ownership of property.
Designate a payable-on-death beneficiary
If you have bank accounts, including savings, checking and certificates of deposit, you wish to leave to someone, you can register a payable-on-death to ensure it goes directly to the beneficiary without probate.
California also allows transfer-on-death registration for vehicles and real estate. You can use a beneficiary deed on the property, allowing the TOD to receive it without dispute. You may also do the same for vehicle registrations.
Estate planning can be as simple or complex as you prefer, but avoiding probate relieves a substantial burden for your family.