Probate Alternatives

A court-managed probate can take more than a year and cost tens of thousands of dollars, even when the family is working together. Fortunately, some alternatives exist in California law that can help avoid a formal probate, even without an estate plan.

Beneficiary Designations
Many financial accounts permit the owner to name a beneficiary that automatically inherits property upon death. These beneficiary designations avoid probate entirely. However, beneficiary designations are difficult to keep up to date and may contain incorrect individuals, such as an ex-spouse, deceased person, or even left blank. Any bank and financial institutions should be contacted to ask about whether the deceased left beneficiary designations and who.

Joint Ownership
Some types of joint ownership automatically transfer ownership to the surviving owners from a deceased owner. A review of all titled property should be reviewed to determine whether the property transferred by the death of an owner.

Spousal or Domestic Property Petition
A surviving spouse or domestic partner could be entitled to a court order that transfers ownership of property. The basis of claiming part or all of a deceased spouse’s property might be based on rights of survivorship, community property laws, or even a will naming the spouse as an heir.

Small Estate Affidavit
For small estates, personal property might be transferred by affidavit without a court order. To use the Small Estate Procedures, the entire estate must be less than $150,000, consist entirely of personal property, and being transferred to the person legally entitled to receive the property.

Petition to Determine Succession to Real Property
When a deceased individual leaves an estate that contains real estate with a total value of less than $150,000, then a court order to transfer the property without a formal probate.

When trying to settle the estate of a loved one, it is important to consider all options, including alternatives to probate. Contact a qualified probate attorney capable of examining the deceased’s estate and find any alternatives that might make the process quicker and easier.