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What is probate and what is involved?

Probate is a legal process that deals with transferring the property of a deceased person to his or her heirs and beneficiaries. The process also verifies that wills are valid and that the probate addresses the financial responsibilities of the deceased person. In California, the probate process must be addressed within 30 days of the date of death.

These cases generally involve estates that are valued at $150,000 or more. In California, if the assets are valued at less than $150,000, then probate is not usually necessary. While some assets must be included in the probate process, there are others that do not have to be included.

Which assets are included in the probate process?

Assets listed in the name of the deceased only are included in the process. These would include things such as bank accounts, investments, and any real estate assets such as a home listed solely in the deceased's name. It also includes any unregistered assets the deceased may have had such as fine jewelry, furniture, art, and other high-valued items. Also, if the deceased had assets that were registered with a spouse as community property, then half of these assets would be included in probate.

Which assets are excluded in probate?

Some assets can have a beneficiary named and assets can be distributed without having to go through the probate process. These assets may include:

  • Insurance policies
  • Retirement plans
  • IRAs
  • Some types of bank accounts

Other examples of excludable assets include any assets held in joint tenancy or those that are part of a living trust. Also, if there is a surviving spouse, then any assets that are registered to the married couple with the right of survivorship and those left in a will or intestate succession to the surviving spouse do not have to go through probate.

If the deceased was named as trustee for the assets of someone else, this is not included in probate. Nor is anything deemed "payable on death" or "transfer on death" to another person.

How should families handle the probate process?

Probate can be an emotional and stressful time for a grieving family. By working with an experienced lawyer, families can avoid additional adding additional stress to an already stressful situation. A knowledgeable attorney at Wall Wall & Peake can help your with the probate administration process.

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