Much of estate planning focuses on how an estate can avoid the probate process. There are many reasons why an individual may want to do this. To start, probate can stall the asset distribution process. It requires the identifying of assets, the settling of debts, and determining how assets should be disbursed amongst heirs and beneficiaries. This process can be costly, too. This can cause heirs and beneficiaries to lose a significant amount of their inheritance's value as court and administration fees are withdrawn.
While a competent estate plan can help some Californians avoid the probate process altogether, there are other ways to minimize the impact probate can have on an estate. For example, California law allows for a simplified probate process when the value of an estate is $150,000 or less. Here, a successor need only follow a few simple steps in order to satisfy the law and ensure a quick transition of assets. To start, a successor needs to wait at least 40 days after the estate planner's death. Then, once that time has passed, the successor must submit an affidavit under penalty of perjury that states some pertinent information, such as the decedent's name, date of death, and a number of facts about the estate, its value, and its management.
Once that information is submitted and accepted by the court, then the affiant can take a number of actions. He or she can collect property or money that is owed to the deceased individual, acquire the deceased individual's personal property, and transfer title to property and debt. Once this is taken care of, the estate administration process very well may be complete.
A simplified probate process may sound great, but it isn't right in every case. Sometimes there are disputes over the validity or provisions of a will that must be addressed in probate. Also, oftentimes individuals have too much wealth to qualify for simple probate. Regardless of one's position, though, it is often best to discuss these matters with a qualified estate planning attorney before moving forward, so as to best protect one's best interests and the interests of the estate at hand.