Avoiding Probate

estate planning attorneys going over client's assets

You may think that once you establish a will, your family will be adequately provided for upon your death. Unfortunately, because of probate laws, it’s often not that simple. 

Even when a will is clearly and correctly prepared, your loved ones can still experience major obstacles as assets are transferred to your heirs. One of the biggest issues encountered in the process is the need to open proceedings. Probate is time-consuming and poses a threat to personal privacy and to your wishes after death. 

If you need help with probate and estate planning, the San Mateo attorneys at Loew Law Group can help. Contact Loew Law Group today to speak with a probate and estate planning attorney. 

What Is Probate?

Probate proceedings are a legal process for transferring an estate’s assets to beneficiaries. 

When someone dies without a will, or if the will has issues or does not fully account for estate distribution, or even if the will is valid but will be used to distribute substantial assets, the process of distributing the estate assets will be overseen by the court. 

Common reasons for a will to end up in probate include: 

  • Where a California decedent’s assets total more than $166,250
  • Errors in the will
  • Not a legally binding will
  • Written under duress
  • Benefactor was mentally incompetent 
  • Assets were owned solely by deceased

When you fail to leave a will, your estate will automatically go to probate so that your affairs are handled through a fair legal process.  

Why You Should Try to Avoid Probate

There are some major downsides to a will going through probate. Unless the will is contested or there are other issues, it’s ideal to avoid the process for several reasons. 

Loss of Privacy

Probate takes all of your family’s personal, confidential financial information and makes it a part of public record. The courts document your assets, properties, bank account holdings, debt, and all other relevant financial matters as your assets pass to your heirs. It also publicly documents what holdings go to which inheritor. 

Long Wait Times

Going through probate puts the timeline of asset distribution onto the court’s schedule. Even smaller estates can take around a year to pass through. With larger estates, it can keep your heirs waiting up to three years or more.

Long wait times aren’t just inconvenient. They can create serious financial hardships for loved ones who are depending upon the assets you’re transferring into their names. 

Probate Expenses

These include:

  • Filing fees
  • Publishing fees
  • Attorney fees

While privacy and wait times are larger concerns, probate unnecessarily costs your heirs money that would otherwise go into their pockets. With correct preparation, these inconveniences can be avoided. 

How to Avoid Probate

The easiest way is to make sure you have a revocable living trust in place rather than just a will. The best way to avoid estate issues that result in probate is to work with an estate planning attorney. 

You’ll want to be sure your will is complete and legally binding. Beneficiaries should be named in the will. The clearer your wishes are, the easier it is for your heirs to skip the probate process. 

However, even when you have a legally binding will with clearly designated beneficiaries, your inheritors can still find themselves stuck. If you want to save your heirs the inconvenience and cost of waiting for a probate court to distribute your estate, there are a few additional steps you can take. 

Create a Revocable Living Trust

A revocable trust is also called a living trust. It allows you to establish a designated beneficiary for the assets you place in it. While you’re alive, you maintain full control, and the trust can be revoked at any time. 

Upon your death, the trust and its assets automatically pass to the beneficiary. This allows you to bypass probate and other legal issues, because your inheritors immediately assume legal ownership of the trust.  

This is a good step to take for many reasons beyond fears of probate. It provides protection if an accident or health condition leaves you in a state of incapacity, or you have dependents who are still minors. 

A will can only be enacted upon your death, or when the beneficiaries come of age. A revocable trust will ensure that your assets can be used to continue providing for you and your loved ones regardless of what the future brings. 

Implement Joint Ownership

Sole ownership of assets is the primary reason that an otherwise sound will may end up in probate. When you are the sole owner of your assets, probate is usually a requirement. 

Most often, spouses share ownership of many assets. If you don’t, or if you are unmarried or your spouse is deceased, putting joint ownership into effect will save your heirs the inconvenience. 

Children and other heirs can share ownership of properties and other important assets. When you proactively initiate this process instead of waiting for your will to take care of it, probate can be avoided. 

Contact a San Mateo Probate Attorney

The San Mateo probate attorneys at Loew Law Group can help with all matters related to estate planning, including the creation of wills and trusts. Loew Law Group’s probate attorneys can advise you on how to streamline all aspects of the estate planning process so that your loved ones are able to seamlessly inherit your assets without undue costs, wait times, and complications. 

Contact Loew Law Group today to schedule a consultation about your estate planning needs.