Estate of Affairs

Estate planning blog

Otherwise known as a Last Will and Testament, a will is a traditional legal document that functions like a letter to the court, detailing where your property goes after your passing. In most cases more is needed to avoid probate.

You’ve probably heard that if you do nothing else to protect your family’s future, you should draft a will. While this is true, a will is the most basic estate planning document you can draft, with severe limitations. 

Do I Have to Go to Probate if I Have a Will in California? 

Usually, yes. But, a will does not determine whether a probate is needed – the fair market value of your property does.

Why Have A Will At All When I can’t Avoid Probate in California? 

A Will works WITH a trust to control property that you receive after death or failed to move to trust while alive.

  • If a sleepy truck driver runs you off the road and your family sues, the money comes into your estate and must be probated. A will can direct the money to go to your family trust instead, avoiding the default distribution plan in probate.

You have too much money to avoid a probate but not enough to get a trust

  • This is the “something is better than nothing” plan. Equity-rich and cash-poor estates may be stuck with a probate when the bulk of the value is in the family home.

You WANT court oversight.

  • You can still choose who gets what with a will, but maybe you want your distribution confirmed by the court to avoid family conflict.
  • Similarly, you prefer to have the court confirm your choice of a representative to avoid arguments over who should be in charge. 

When is a Will/Probate Alone Best Avoided in California? 

Although a will can discriminate between beneficiaries, it does not avoid the time, publicity, and expense of probate. 

With just $184,500.00 worth of property, the probate fees are about $7,000 plus costs (and can increase quickly). 

  • At $400,000.00 in property value, the fees are $12,000.00.

When your family needs immediate access to money to continue paying bills and costs of living.

  • Remember, it can take months before you get a court order to access money in a deceased person’s account.

If you do not want all of your assets publicly disclosed in a court proceeding. 

  • A Trust is a private document.

If you prefer your beneficiaries enjoy their inheritance sooner than later. 

In a probate, your beneficiaries usually do not receive a dime until the court issues an order, which may take 12 to 18 months on average. 

Why You Need an Estate Plan. 

Probate is expensive and time-consuming. A 3-million-dollar estate can pay as much as $80,000+ in court costs, representative fees, and attorney fees in California and take 12 to 18 months to complete before your family will see a dime.

Instead of waiting months to years for their inheritance, your family could begin receiving payments from your trust estate right away. Often your trustee can give your beneficiaries most of your property in a fraction of the time it would otherwise take in probate. 

Your family can’t wait until it’s too late – avoid probate and get an estate plan with us today. 




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