Can I Make Sure My Assets Are Not Distributed Through the Probate Process?

Courtroom, Judge, male judge in black mirror backgroundThe probate process involves the court distributing a person’s assets upon death. It usually occurs in situations where a person does not have a will. However, just because a person has a will does not mean that their assets will definitely not be distributed through the probate process.

What to Do to Prevent Your Assets From Being Distributed Through the Probate Process

Here are a couple of tips to help you avoid having your assets distributed through the probate process:

  • Joint Ownership – Set up any real estate or other property you own so that you share ownership with the person, persons or entity that you want to be the beneficiary of the property or real estate after you die. Property or real estate that is jointly owned with a survivorship right will not be subject to the probate process.
  • Living Trust – There are both revocable and irrevocable living trusts. Revocable living trusts allow the creator of the trust to revoke it while he or she is still alive. Irrevocable trusts cannot be revoked once they are created. The way a living trust works is that you create the trust and you become the trustee of the trust, which means you fully control any assets, such as property, that you transfer to the trust while you are alive. After your death, a person who you chose to takeover as your successor trustee will distribute the property and other assets you transferred to the trust while you were alive to your chosen beneficiaries. This protects your assets from being distributed through probate.

Next month, we will examine how the transfer-on-death designation, creating a will and setting up a pay-on-death account can also enable you to avoid probate.

At Lowthorp Richards, our experienced probate attorneys have been successfully guiding people through the probate process, as well as other complex estate administration matters, for decades. We are dedicated to providing individuals and families in Ventura County, the Central Coast and throughout California with the highest caliber legal services possible. To learn more about estate administration or to set up a consultation, call Lowthorp Richards today.

When Is a No Contest Clause Ineffective in Probate Court?

The California Court of Appeal just handed down an opinion very strictly limiting the application of a no contest clause contained within trust to later trust amendments.

Peggy was battling cancer for 5 years, during which time her friends, Tracy and David, became the exclusive suppliers of medical cannabis upon which Peggy depended for treatment.  Anticipating her demise, Peggy placed Tracy in custody of all of her estate planning documents.  Soon after, Peggy complained that Tracy read the documents and confronted her about the disposition of her estate.  Shortly after, Peggy executed a trust amendment created in secret, and without advice or assistance of her longtime estate planning attorney, leaving all of her money to Tracy – to the exclusion of Peggy’s brother and godchildren, natural objects of her bounty, and beneficiaries under the estate plan in existence when placed in Tracy’s custody.  After Peggy’s demise, Tracy produced the trust amendment, and the beneficiaries went straight to court. Continue reading

What is Probate in California?

Sitting down and having a discussion about what will happen to your assets and finances after you pass away is certainly not an easy thing to do, but it’s something that should be done. You should start your estate planning as early as your graduation from college, and especially once you’re married with children.

When you pass away, most likely your estate will pass through the probate process. This process is the official way your estate is settled through the supervision of probate in California. The estate is frozen until the court determines the Will is valid, all relatives have been notified and that all of the property in the estate is identified. The court will also ensure that creditors and taxes are paid. Once that is all done, an Order is issued by the court for the distribution of the remaining assets. If you die without a will, the court will determine who is appointed as the administrator of the estate and will determine who receives your assets based on a “family tree” of surviving relatives.
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