LAWYERS TO ASSIST IN CALIFORNIA PROBATE CASES
When it comes to avoiding probate in Palm Desert, California, the process starts with the original owner of the estate, not its beneficiaries. Because of this, you must have gone through a solid estate planning process that leaves no room for a California probate court to intervene. These documents must also become readily accessible to heirs when the time comes. Without sufficient documentation, probate court may become unavoidable.
One of our experienced Palm Desert probate lawyers at Bochnewich Law Offices is happy to review your assets and help you create a plan that works for you. Whether you want to avoid probate completely or just keep some assets out of court, we have solutions to meet your needs.
What Is Probate Court?
Probate refers to the legal process for distributing the assets of a deceased person. Here are some of the many tasks tackled at this time in a Palm Desert probate court:
- Determining the legitimacy of a will, if one exists
- Estimating the worth of the entire estate
- Determining who the named beneficiaries in the will are
- Determining who the heirs are when there is no will
- Resolving the decedent’s remaining financial obligations
- Successfully transferring assets to the heirs and beneficiaries
Why Should People Avoid Probate?
Some families review the pros and cons of avoiding probate and decide they would prefer to let the court handle the distribution of assets. However, most people who understand how probate court works wants to avoid the process altogether or reduce the role it plays in wrapping up the decedent’s affairs. There are a few reasons for this:
- Time: The California courts estimate that, on average, the full probate process can take 18 months to resolve. It can often take even longer. The larger the estate, the more difficult it is to locate beneficiaries and the more disagreements exist in the family, the longer the process can take.
- Money: Going through the process can become expensive. California may charge court fees and probate fees, which on average add up to about 8% of the total estate. If family members hire attorneys to contest wills or otherwise represent their interests, the costs can continue to climb.
- Privacy: There is no privacy in the probate process. Once the process is underway, the public has access to the details of the estate and the process of distribution. How much each person receives and who gets what under which conditions may become public knowledge.
- Bureaucracy: The top reason for the three problems mentioned above is all the red tape involved in probate. This is why so many families end up hiring an attorney to help them navigate the process. There are numerous forms to file and fill out. A probate judge may also need to approve every new step along the way.
How Can a Lawyer Help My Estate Avoid Probate?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for avoiding probate in Palm Desert. A lawyer must review all of your information and listen to your preferences and concerns. Only after this can the lawyer help you create an estate plan that eliminates or reduces the role probate plays. Here are some common solutions:
If there are sentimental items you want to give to certain family members, consider doing this while you still can. This option does not work well for everyone, especially if you would like to continue to enjoy the item before turning it over. However, if you are terminally ill or entering your senior years, this is worth considering. Talk to your attorney about how to solidify the transfer of ownership to reduce the risk of another family member trying to revoke this later on.
If you are not ready to part with specific gifts just yet, you can share ownership with the person you would like to pass something to. For instance, if you would like your eldest daughter to inherit a home that is not marital property, you can change the title to make her a joint owner. When you pass, the property goes directly to her. Note that the same is true of bank accounts and other jointly owned assets.
California allows you to create trusts that can own property like a person or business can. Some of these assets include bank accounts, real estate, vehicles and jewelry. While living, you serve as the trustee of your trusts. When you pass away, your named successor transfers it to beneficiaries. You can also set conditions for the transfer of assets.
These types of accounts are common among investors. They make it possible for your named beneficiaries to immediately inherit any stocks, bonds or other similar investments upon your passing. Our Southern California probate attorney can help you comb through accounts and see which ones provide a TOD option. You can also use TODs for vehicles and real estate.
With this type of account, when you pass away, the value is paid directly to your named beneficiaries. The most common example of a POD account is a life insurance policy. Some banks also provide this option for savings accounts and certificates of deposits. Note that if you own any POD accounts jointly, it passes first to the joint owner.
Why Hire a Palm Desert Attorney?
The laws governing probate in California are incredibly complex. Because of this, avoiding probate requires the knowledge and skill of an experienced attorney, whether they deal with estate planning or trust litigation. With the help of our legal team, you can determine what assets you want to keep out of probate and formulate a plan to achieve this. If you prefer, you can also gather feedback from family members regarding what specific items they want or why.
Note that sometimes it can drag out the estate planning process when you involve family members. It may be best to take decisive action on your own if your family is prone to disagreements. When disagreements do arise, our attorney can advise you on how to navigate them so we can resume the planning process.
Regardless of the process you choose for creating a holistic estate plan that steers clear of probate, we can help make it possible. Contacting Bochnewich Law Offices is the first step. Give us a call at 866-698-6671.