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Does every asset have to go through probate?

No matter how you arrange your estate, you might not be able to avoid probate for your loved ones in California. However, probate isn’t necessarily a bad thing. During the probate process, a judge will make sure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes.

What are some assets that have to go through probate?

Tenant-in-common property may have to go through probate litigation. These are properties with multiple names listed on the title. For example, if you own a house and have your romantic partner’s name on the title, this asset will probably go through probate. However, you could avoid probate by taking this person’s name off the title and forming a trust instead.

Assets that you didn’t include in a trust might also go through probate. This could include real estate, cars, boats, collectibles, businesses and virtually any other asset. If you want to reduce the length of probate, you could place these assets in a trust so that ownership transfers directly to the beneficiary. You could also name a beneficiary for certain assets like bank accounts and retirement funds.

Similarly, if you forgot to name a beneficiary on certain accounts, they might have to go through probate. It’s essential to name a beneficiary on accounts like life insurance policies and update these designations periodically. Otherwise, your loved ones might have to deal with probate when they didn’t have to.

Is it possible to avoid probate entirely?

Unless you can put every single asset you own in a trust, you might not be able to eliminate probate entirely. However, an attorney may suggest ways to shorten the process. A shorter probate process means less time and money that your family members have to spend. Just keep in mind that relatives could still challenge your will and drag the process along, so it’s helpful to have an attorney craft your estate planning documents to hold up to legal scrutiny.