What is Probate?

Probate in California is a court supervised process that is used to wind up a person's legal and financial affairs after death, usually overseen by probate lawyers in California. Probate includes gathering a deceased person's assets, proving the validity of the will; appraising the estate property; paying creditors (including estate taxes); and then distributing the property as directed by will or state law if there is no will.

California probate is the process of determining the rights and obligations of a person’s legal and financial matters after their death. Probate is the way to transfer assets, resolve debts and clear title so the decedent’s assets can get to the rightful heirs. Often, it is a complicated and time-consuming process. For estates larger than $184,500, court supervision is helpful, in order to oversee the process and approve the distributions.

Assets owned solely in the name of the deceased person are subject to probate. Assets that pass by means of title, such as real estate titled as “Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship,” or bank accounts titled as “Transfer On Death” are not subject to the probate process. Assets that pass by means of a beneficiary designation, such as life insurance or some retirement accounts, are also not subject to probate.

In some situations, however, assets that would otherwise pass by title or beneficiary designation can be subject to the probate process.

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How is Distribution of the Estate Handled if there is no Will?

If there is no will or trust, the estate will be distributed according to California probate and intestate laws, which state that a person’s estate will be distributed in the following order:

  1. Spouse
  2. Children
  3. Parents (if you have no children)
  4. Siblings (if you have no children or parents)

If there is a Will, is there still a Probate?

Many people mistakenly think that by having a will they are avoiding probate. However, just the opposite is true. A will guarantees probate because the purpose of probate is to prove the validity of a will.

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