In California, if you die without a will or if all you have is a will and you don’t have a living trust, your estate will probably have to go through probate. The Courts in Los Angeles County, Santa Barbara County, Ventura County and Orange County (as well as all the other counties in California) will oversee the probate of all the property that you owned at the time of death such as real property, personal property, bank accounts, investment accounts, etc. But there are some exceptions. You may have in your estate some assets that do not go through probate in California. These are some of them:
Payable on Death Accounts (POD accounts). This is a type of bank account where you choose a beneficiary who will receive the account without probate when you die.
Life Insurance Policies and Retirement Accounts – like an IRA. The death benefit from the life insurance and IRA benefits payable to named beneficiaries automatically pass to them and avoid probate.
Property held in joint tenancy. Many Californians who happen to be married own their home in joint tenancy with their spouse. When a joint tenant dies, the other joint tenant inherits the property without going through the probate process.
Another way you can avoid probate is to transfer your assets into a revocable living trust. Assets which have been transferred into the name of the trust are non-probate assets. Contact an experienced estate planning lawyer if you would like more information about a living trust. Call Mitchell A. Port at (310) 559-5259.