If you have a parent or other loved one who has reached an advanced age or is in poor health, you may be starting to think about the probate process that you will have to go through once they are no longer with you. You may have several questions concerning the relationship between having (or not having) a will and the terms of probate. While the probate process can be complex, it does not have to be confusing or overwhelming.
If my loved one has a will, will I still need to go through probate?
Probate is the legal process whereby a deceased individual’s affairs are wrapped up. It involves giving creditors the chance to lay claim to what the deceased owed them, paying pending taxes, litigating any challenges to the will by beneficiaries, distributing bequests and more.
Probate is not just for people who die intestate (meaning without a valid will). Even if your loved one has a properly executed will when they die, they will likely still need to go through the probate process – unless they fit under certain specific exceptions.
Under California law, certain estates do not have to go through the probate process. For example, if the deceased arranged for all of their assets to transfer upon death, through a trust or other method, they can successfully avoid probate. If the estate is valued at $166,250 or less, you can also avoid probate if you wish to.
What if they die without a valid will?
If your loved one dies without a will, a probate court will have to oversee the process of distributing the deceased’s estate according to California’s intestate succession statute. This statute outlines exactly who will be entitled to what, and the order in which people can lay claim to a portion of the estate.
When someone dies intestate, and it is determined that a probate proceeding is necessary, the court will have to assign a personal representative to oversee the administration of the estate and to stand in for the deceased in any legal issues.
The idea of having to go through the probate process can be intimidating and discouraging. However, with the proper guidance, even the most complex of cases can be manageable.