• When is Probate Necessary

When is Probate Necessary in California?

Probate used to be the only way to transfer assets after a person died.  The probate process is a formal court proceeding and can be expensive and time-consuming. In this regard, California law provides for alternatives to formal probate that are easier and less expensive.  It is often possible to avoid probate. So, with this information, when is probate necessary in California? Unfortunately, even though there are measures that a person can take to avoid probate, there will still be times when probate is needed.

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K. Levenson
“A People Choice provided excellent support with the appropriate legal documents and filing process in a spousal property petition after my husband passed. Lawyers wanted to charge me a fortune. However, once I spoke with someone at A People’s Choice, they took on my case and guided me through every step. A People’s Choice has years of experience which gave me a sense of trust and confidence. I always got immediate feedback from every email request. If you have a need for probate help, I would highly recommend A People’s Choice.”
Sylvia A
“I had a great experience with my probate using A People’s Choice! The people that assisted me were so helpful.  I could not have done this probate by myself.  I was able to save over 10,000 in lawyer fees!  All my emails were always returned so quickly, and I am a very satisfied customer.  I would highly recommend A People’s Choice to all my friends and family!”
Joi C
“APC did a great job with my father’s probate case. I highly recommend them. Professional staff!!! Probably saved me about $10k.”
Eric N
“When my mother in-law passed away last year, we didn’t know what to do. We contacted A People’s Choice and from day one they were very helpful. They almost held our hand every step of the way, and if I had a question any time of the day or night someone got back to me within a few hours. I highly recommend A People’s Choice if you don’t know what to do and don’t want to pay the high price of a lawyer especially if you don’t have much money.”
Mikki C
“A People’s Choice helped us throughout our entire year-long probate making the process very easy and manageable while at the same time saving us thousands of dollars in lawyer’s fees. Not only were they extremely friendly and fast to respond to our questions but they made the process simple enough that we hardly ever had to contact the courthouse directly and we even had a hearing done without an appearance. Would highly recommend A People’s Choice to anyone!”
A. Vuckovich
“A People’s Choice is a very responsible and effective company, staff there is very nice and replied to all my questions by email quickly. With their help, I accomplished the probate in 8 months successfully and saved at least $10,000.00 in attorney fees, so I strongly recommend everybody to contract with A People’s Choice and let them to help you with your legal documents. You will be very satisfied with their work as I did!!!!”
C. Chiu
“A People’s Choice walked me through the entire probate process. They are so professional and helpful. Thank you to the staff for your guidance and patience to talk me through such difficult time. You made the process very smooth for me. I am so glad that I found you.” 
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“The staff at A People’s Choice made a scary Probate pretty much stress free. I would send an email with a question I had thought of over the weekend with the expectation that I would get an answer on Monday. Lo and behold, I often got an answer within minutes! We are very pleased and will be referring our friends/family to A People’s Choice!”
L. Garrett
“Thanks to A People’s Choice I was able to get through a probate matter very smoothly. I had not one issue with the Courts. They guided me through the whole probate until the very end. I live up north but that didn’t matter, A People’s Choice did an excellent job keeping me informed with everything that I needed to do. I saved THOUSANDS of dollars by going with A People’s Choice. You can’t go wrong, no matter what your needs are. I saved a lot of money by not having to pay out a percentage to any attorney. I want to thank the staff at A People’s Choice for the great help they give to everyone in their times of need. Like I was! Thank You.”
R. Leonard
“When my father passed away without a will, we needed help handling the transfer of his assets. Since there weren’t significant assets, I didn’t want to spend too much on the legal paperwork. A People’s Choice offered just the right service we needed. In particular, the staff was very responsive to our document filing needs, helping to turn around corrections almost immediately. They helped to ease a tough situation.”
Michael C.
“I used A People’s Choice for help with a probate matter. My grandfather died Christmas of 2016. He had a living trust, but no one was able to find it. We went to A People’s Choice and we were able to do a probate affidavit to get what was left of my grandfather’s estate. Took two days for the documents to be prepared and the bank accepted them without any questions. Sandy was the one who assisted us, and we really appreciate the help that was provided. A+ service.”
David R.
“A People’s Choice worked on my probate case for over 1 year. Their knowledge, dedication and commitment to clients is exceptional. They prepared all the required legal documents, and all the court filings. They used the e-filing system, which initially I was hesitant about, but I’m so glad they did. It really expedited the process. They always answered my emails in a very timely manner and was always professional. The probate process is long and sometimes seems overwhelming. It’s also very expensive, A People’s Choice saved me thousands of dollars over going to an Attorney. I would highly recommend A People’s Choice for your probate needs, it’s cost effective, and they handle the entire process from beginning to end. They do a great job!”
C.K..
“A People’s Choice was professional and courteous throughout a long probate process. Probate itself is a frustrating and expensive process; however, everyone I came in contact with at A People’s Choice was exceptionally helpful, patient, and professional. For those entering into the probate process I must warn you that it is difficult to understand but the staff at A People’s Choice makes it as tolerable you could wish for.  The people who work there were kind, efficient, and understanding.  As long as you email them your questions, they will get back to you and they will not make you feel like you are ignorant if you are unclear about any part of the process.”
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Sharon B.

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When is Probate Necessary in California?

For this article, we refer to probate as the 8-10 month court process that settles a decedent’s estate. We are not referring to alternative simplified proceedings that we will discuss later in this article.

With this in mind, the first step to determine when probate is necessary is to figure out which assets are part of the estate.  Assets that are part of the estate, must be transferred through probate.  Assets that are part of the estate include:

  1. Assets titled solely in the name of the decedent. These assets may consist of real estate, bank accounts, valuable collectibles, and personal property.  Most states, including California, have exceptions for vehicles.  Another exception is accounts with a Payable on Death beneficiary or property with a Transfer on Death Deed.  You should not count assets held in a revocable living trust as part of the estate.
  2. Property that the decedent owned as a tenant-in-common. There is an exception for a Transfer on Death Deed.  However, property that is a joint tenancy with right of survivorship will not be part of the estate.
  3. Accounts with named beneficiaries, such as a retirement plan or life insurance. These accounts are usually not part of the estate. An exception to this would be if all the designated beneficiaries predeceased the decedent. In that situation, the account becomes part of the estate.

How to Determine Value of Estate

Once the estate representative figures out which assets are part of the estate, he/she must determine the total value of the estate.  The value of the estate determines when probate is necessary in California and if an alternative process is an option. First, calculate the total gross value of the estate assets. Does the esate include real property? Next, eliminate all the exceptions discussed above. If, after eliminating all exceptions, the gross estate is valued more than $150,000 (and includes real property), then you must file probate. We urge you to watch this informative video which will help you understand the various options to settle an estate in California.

If the total value of all the California assets in the estate are under a $150,000, then most likely you can settle the estate by a simplified procedure.  It is important to understand that beneficiaries can use a simplified procedure if there is a will or there is no will. To officially value the assets, California requires an appraisal from a probate referee. This valuation is part of the simplified procedure. If, however, the referee determines the value of the assets in the estate exceed this threshold, then probate will be necessary whether the decedent had a will or not.

When to Choose Probate vs Simplified Procedures

Even if the value of the assets in the estate qualifies the estate for a simplified procedure, there are situations when probate would be preferable over a simplified procedure.  If the decedent’s will is flawed, you may need court intervention to decide the terms or validity of the will.  If there are disputes among the heirs, it may be necessary to resolve the differences through a court process.  If the decedent has a large amount of debt or the estate is insolvent, then probate may be necessary to determine which creditors have priority for payment.  Lastly, some companies may refuse to transfer assets in some accounts unless the estate goes through full probate.

If you need to settle an estate, whether it be filing probate or a simplified proceeding, contact A People’s Choice. We have helped thousands of families settle a decedent’s estate. Our probate services are inexpensive and a great way to save thousands of dollars as compared to hiring an attorney. Reach out to speak with our experienced staff at 800-747-2780.

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By |2019-01-01T17:26:55+00:00January 1st, 2019|Probate|0 Comments

About the Author:

Sandra M. McCarthy, founder of A People’s Choice Inc., has worked exclusively in the legal field since 1976. She served as the 2004-2005 President of CALDA (California Association of Legal Document Assistants). She obtained a Paralegal Certificate from the University of California, Santa Barbara. During her career in the legal field, she has worked as a freelance paralegal, law office manager and paralegal studies teacher, and has co-authored numerous legal publications and written hundreds of self-help legal articles. As a registered Legal Document Assistant, Sandy is dedicated to providing affordable, low-cost, self-help document preparation services for California consumers in all 58 counties.

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