When a loved one passes away, the estate left behind typically must go through the legal process known as “probate.” Assets involved in the probate process may be held up for months, even years, before they can legally be passed down to the named beneficiaries and/or legal heirs of the estate. Fortunately, California offers several potential alternatives to formal probate that may be available to beneficiaries and heirs. To help you decide if one is available to you, the Los Angeles probate attorneys at Schomer Law Group, APC explain alternatives to formal probate in California.
Why Is Avoiding Formal Probate Desirable?
Probate serves several important goals; however, it can be a lengthy and costly process if an estate is required to go through the formal probate process. One important probate goal is to ensure that all creditors of the estate (including Uncle Sam) are paid before assets are distributed to beneficiaries and/or heirs. Another important probate goal is to ensure that estate assets are properly transferred to the new owners. The good news is that not all estates are required to go through formal probate in California. Instead, California offers several alternatives to formal probate that can achieve the goals of probate in less time and with less expense.
California Alternatives to Formal Probate
Ultimately, assets are legally transferred from the decedent to a beneficiary or heir of the estate during probate. Given the importance of ensuring that assets are transferred properly, it is always best to consult with an experienced probate attorney before deciding to use an alternative to formal probate. Those alternatives include:
- Automatic transfer of ownership. Not all assets are required to go through any type of probate. Before contemplating the need for an alternative to formal probate, consider if the asset is one that bypasses probate altogether. Common examples are jointly owned property if titled with rights of survivorship, life insurance proceeds, and assets held in a living trust.
- Small Estate Affidavit. If the estate value is less than $184,500 (as of 2023), you may be able to use a Small Estate Affidavit. Again, it is important to know what assets count when valuing the estate. Certain assets are excluded under the law, such as Automobiles, boats, motorhomes, camper trucks, and mobile homes as well as real property located outside of California. If formal probate has not been opened or you have the permission of the Personal Representative, you may be able to fill out a small estate affidavit and submit it to the individual or entity in possession of the asset you wish transferred. There is a 40-day waiting period following the decedent’s death before you can use a Small Estate Affidavit.
- Affidavit for Real Property of Small Value. For real estate that doesn’t exceed $61,500 in value (as of 2023) you may be eligible to file an Affidavit Re: Real Property of Small Value (commonly referred to as a Form DE-305) with the appropriate probate court and record the affidavit with the County Clerk-Recorder in the county where the real estate is located. If the affidavit is accepted, the property will be transferred without the need to wait for formal probate.
Contact Our Los Angeles Probate Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE event. If you have additional questions or concerns about alternatives to formal probate in California, contact the experienced Los Angeles probate attorneys at Schomer Law Group APC by calling (310) 337-7696 to schedule an appointment.
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