ESTATE PLANNING AND AVOIDING PROBATE
When creating an estate plan, California residents can often save time and money by avoiding the probate process. While many states have streamlined their probate processes, probating a will can still be disruptive to the distribution of an estate. Another disadvantage of the probate system is that the court records are public.
Many types of property automatically avoid probate by operation of law. This includes life insurance policies, retirement accounts and jointly-owned property. It is also possible to transfer property into a trust to avoid probate rather than having a traditional will. Most estates include some property that is subject to probate and some that is not.
Many people believe there are some advantages to having an estate probated because a judge can review the distribution of property. This may leave less room for error or fraud by the executor or other parties. After property has been distributed through the probate court, it is more difficult to challenge ownership because ownership becomes certified.
Real estate is generally subject to probate in the state where the property is located, while other property is subjected to probate where the owner of the state resides. State laws vary, so it may be beneficial for anyone who is creating an estate plan to speak to an attorney.
An attorney may be able to help clients by explaining what type of estate plan is best for them. For example, if a client wants to help his or her heirs avoid probate and save money on estate taxes, a trust may be the best option for the client. An attorney may be able to explain the different types of trusts to a client as well as the benefits and drawbacks of creating a will as opposed to a trust or other type of estate planning document.