While not every estate needs probate, preparing for this process can help with the smooth administration of your estate. California, like other states, has specific laws that cover probate.
Review the California probate requirements to inform your estate planning.
Certain types of property does not require probate in California. Nonprobate assets, which transfer to your beneficiary without probate, include:
- Retirement accounts, bank accounts and investment accounts for which you named a payable-on-death beneficiary
- Assets you transferred to the ownership of a trust
- Assets you hold in joint tenancy with another person
- Assets that constitute community property with your surviving spouse, including all property acquired since the date of your marriage
The probate process
All estate assets not listed above constitute probate assets in California. However, your estate will not require formal probate unless the value of its probate assets exceeds the state threshold (currently $166,250 in 2020).
When your estate requires probate, the person you name as executor in your will starts the process by petitioning the court in the county where you lived. The court will review the validity of the will and give the executor authority to act on behalf of your estate.
Once the court approves, the executor will provide formal notice to your beneficiaries and potential creditors in accordance with state law. He or she will also gather, inventory and value your estate assets as well as settle taxes and debts.
The executor will ensure that all your beneficiaries receive the appropriate estate property and that the state follows the wishes you express in your will.