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What determines if a California estate goes through probate?

On Behalf of | Mar 15, 2024 | Probate & Trust Administration

Determining whether a California estate must go through probate is helpful for anyone involved in estate planning or managing the affairs of a deceased loved one. Several factors influence whether probate is necessary.

Understanding these determinants helps people navigate the probate process and ensure the proper handling of the decedent’s estate.

Value of the estate assets

A key factor determining if a California estate must go through probate is the total value of the decedent’s assets. If the estate’s value falls below $166,250, probate may not be necessary. However, if the estate’s value exceeds this limit, probate proceedings may be necessary to facilitate the transfer of assets to beneficiaries and settle the decedent’s debts.

Type of assets and ownership

The type of assets also plays a role in determining probate requirements for California estates. Assets held in joint tenancy or with designated beneficiaries, such as life insurance policies or retirement accounts, bypass probate. In doing so, they pass directly to the designated beneficiaries. Conversely, assets owned by just the decedent or held in his or her name alone may be subject to probate, depending on their total value and other factors.

Presence of a valid will

A valid will can influence whether a California estate must go through probate. If the decedent left a will, the probate process may be necessary to validate the will and ensure its proper execution. However, if the estate qualifies for simplified probate procedures or if the assets transfer out of probate through other means, a valid will may not affect probate requirements.

If an estate does have to go through probate, there are important dates and deadlines involved in the process. Part of the executor’s job is to keep track of these deadlines to ensure the probate process proceeds smoothly and according to legal requirements.