Probate vs. Non-Probate Property in California – Do You Know the Difference?

Temecula Probate lawyers will tell you there is a common misconception that if you create a will, your assets will be transferred smoothly to your loved ones after death. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Especially when it comes to probate in California. There are many different rules that can impact how assets are transferred in a way that maybe you had not intended. 

Probate in California is a court process where a judge oversees the transfer of property that makes up the decedent’s legal estate. If the decedent had a Last Will and Testament, the judge will verify the validity of the will and give the Executor the green light to begin the process of administering assets according to the document. If there was no will, the assets of the estate will be distributed according to state law and the judge will appoint an Administrator to oversee this process. 

But, does everything you own have to go through this probate process—which is public, costly, and takes a long time? It depends. Property can become non-probate property depending on whose name is listed as the owner. Property will be considered non-probate property if:

  • There is a joint owner with right of survivorship
  • A beneficiary is already designated on a life insurance or a retirement account
  • Property is owned by a trust with named beneficiaries

In these cases, joint owners and beneficiaries displace the request of the will. At the time of death, the property will pass to the joint owner or beneficiary without the approval of the probate court. 

The bottom line is that your will is not necessarily the final authority on where your property and assets will go at the time of your death. Knowing the difference between which assets are subject to probate and which are not can save your family a lot of headaches and even heartache. If you want to be certain that your family gets the money and property that you want to leave to them, call one of our offices located throughout the state of California at (800) 244-8814 to schedule a consultation. 

If you have any further questions about estate planning and strategies to shield your wealth, or if you’d like to have your current asset protection plan reviewed to make sure it still meets your needs, please contact us at our California asset protection office at 800-244-8814 to set up a consultation.

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