Is California Probate Necessary If There Is a Will?

California probate is a legal process used to finalize the estate of the deceased. It’s composed of several steps that exist to pay off existing debts, pay the final set of taxes, and distribute the remaining assets. One of the more common ways that people express how they’d like to have their assets distributed after their death is by using a will. Is California probate necessary if there is a will? The answer is most likely yes.

A Will Does Not Necessarily Help a Family Avoid California Probate

On its own, a will is not necessarily enough to keep an estate from going through the probate process. However, if the estate is considered small, approximately $150,000 or less in value, simplified probate procedures may be applied for and used. There are other requirements for the estate to avoid the probate process.

Related: California Probate Tips: What You Need to Do After the Death of Your Loved One

Why the California Probate Process Is Necessary Even with a Will

Even for small estates, the California probate process plays a very important role. It determines that the Last Will and Testament presented is valid under the laws of the State. The State will determine if the presented will meets all of the requirements to be valid and will also listen to anyone who objects to the will being admitted. This is important because there are instances where wills were signed under duress (meaning the testator was forced to sign it), had forged signatures, were altered in some way, or the testator did not have legal capacity to sign the document.

Related: What Information Is Required to Create a Will?

Do All Assets Go Through the California Probate Process?

Since the purpose of a will is to explain what someone wants to happen to their belongings, it’s important to explain what assets go through the California probate process. The good news is that not all assets go through the probate process. Assets that generally aren’t required to go through the probate process include:

  • Assets held by the decedent in joint tenancy
  • Assets placed in a living trust
  • Life insurance where a beneficiary is named
  • IRA benefits that list a beneficiary
  • Savings or checking accounts held in the decedent’s name that have a named beneficiary or where the decedent is named as a trustee for another person
  • Assets labeled payable on death
  • Assets labeled transfer on death
  • Assets passed to a surviving spouse if the assets were held only in the name of the decedent (regardless of whether there is a will)
  • Community property between spouses with a right to survivorship (this may still require a spousal confirmation hearing)

Get Your Inheritance Faster

If you’re an heir to an estate that will be or is currently involved in the California probate process, we may be able to help you collect your inheritance faster. Click here to answer a few simple questions and we’ll let you know if we’re able to help!

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