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What is probate and why should I try to avoid it in California?

Probate is the legal process in California, that oversees the settlement and distribution of the assets in a person’s estate after death. This process guides the legal acceptance of the will and formally recognizes the executor if the estate documents have already been named. However, many try to avoid probate altogether by setting up trusts because the process is lengthy, stressful, and sometimes objectionable when required.

Why is probate time-consuming and complex?

Estate administration and probate are especially time-consuming in larger California legal jurisdictions because the process is more formal. Regardless of where you live, you can expect probate to take at least six to eight months. Factors that determine the length of the process include the size of the estate, type of assets owned, tax issues, creditors’ claims, marital property, and whether a business is part of the assets. Probate often involves lengthy paperwork, and if issues appear, such as litigation, the disposition of the estate may take years to resolve. Privacy concerns can also become an issue because court proceedings become a matter of public record. In addition, the longer probate drags on, the more expensive it becomes due to court fees, attorney’s fees, etc.

Avoiding probate by creating trusts

The larger your estate is, the more complex it is. Many individuals with large estates consider various types of trusts to protect their assets. When you place assets in certain beliefs, you technically relinquish ownership of those assets, so they cannot go through probate. Another way to avoid probate is to establish TOD or transfer on death accounts. The investments go directly to the person named on the document.

It’s never too early to begin estate planning. Having one in place will help your executor with estate administration after your passing.