Estate planning is a term that most people are familiar with but there are aspects that people may not be familiar with in California. One of these is probate and how it can impact an estate one wishes to leave for loved ones. Probate is the process that a will must go through, via the courts, to establish that it is legitimate.
This process can take anywhere from a few months to a few years, but there are steps that can be taken to streamline matters or to even protect an estate from it altogether. Jointly owned assets can sometimes avoid becoming subject to this process. There are paid on death or transfer on death forms that can be filled out for brokerage and bank accounts respectively that may protect those accounts.
In order to further protect an estate, a living (revocable) trust. The trust essentially becomes the owner of the estate and assets left over at death are distributed according to the terms of the trust. Depending on how a trust is set up it can protect one’s estate from the verification process necessitated by probate. Another advantage is that a trust is kept private where the verification process regarding a will is public.
Estate planning may appear intimidating to some and leave one wondering where to begin in California. A good starting place is to have a heart-to-heart conversation with loved ones. Confronting one’s mortality can be difficult, but as people make plans for life, so should they make plans for death. Once the decision to establish a plan is made, a knowledgeable attorney can further help one understand the different options and the probate process.