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What Exactly Is Probate In California?

You may have heard this legal term before of an estate going through "probate." You may have even heard friends or family say this is something you want to avoid. But have you ever wondered exactly what probate means in California? Below is a quick summary of probate, the probate process and what assets can be excluded during the probate process.

Quick Facts About Probate

Probate is a legal process where the court will determine mainly two things: 1) Was there a will and is the will valid? 2) If there was not a will, how does the estate proceed under intestate laws?

As you can see, having a will does not preclude you from the probate process. Even if you have a will, parties can come forward under proper procedures described under California Probate Code Section 8250 and contest the validity of a will or the contents of a will. Will contests can stall the probate process and lead to probate litigation.

The court (unless someone is already named in a will or trust) will designate an executor to administer the estate. It is also during this time that debts and liabilities are addressed. Creditors or other parties can come forward during the probate process to seek payment of debts as well as any owed state or federal taxes. The probate process is often complex, and having a seasoned estate planning lawyer can really make all the difference in helping resolve these types of issues.

Keep in mind not all assets are automatically part of the probate process. Certain assets are excluded such as those held in joint tenancy, certain trusts as well as beneficiaries of an IRA. Having a trust can really help to avoid the probate process. To discuss trusts, probate and other estate planning tools for your specific situation, seek the guidance of an experienced probate lawyer in California.

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