To hear some people describe it, going through probate makes root canal surgery or a trip to the DMV seem like a vacation.
Sure, it involves things most people would like to avoid—attorney and court fees, court appearances, and paperwork—but probate is actually a very fair and logical process that gets a very bad rap.
If you don’t have a trust, you’re going to have to accept reality: probate is the likely only way to determine who receives ownership of your assets after your death.
Still, there are some estate situations where the probate process can’t be erased, but it can be minimized.
The most common situation involves very small estates. In California, a “small estate” refers to a total value of real estate and other assets that does not exceed $166,250. (The California legislature changed that amount in 2019 from $150,000.)
Notice that the small estate guidelines break down estate assets into two parts: real property and any additional assets. An estate qualifies if the real property part—whose total value can’t exceed $55,425—and the remaining assets don’t total more than $166,250.
Does that make sense? Consider this example.
Let’s say your dear old chain-smoking granny left the suburbs years ago and relocated to the desert. The doctor said it’d be good for her lungs. Now she’s passed away and left behind a tiny inexpensive condo and a few items (an old car, several hundred cartons of Luckys, a few dollars in the bank). And no will.
Don’t worry; this shouldn’t be a problem. If the value of her assets falls under the California small estates limit, a full probate process won’t be required.
Still, you will need legal help. Some court paperwork and procedures are involved no matter what. Affidavits will need to be signed, and the court will need to approve the transfer of property—all of which should be done by an experienced attorney.
Ok, so you can’t completely circumvent the probate process. But look at the bright side (and it’s still pretty bright): Compared with the costs and time involved in a regular probate situation with a larger estate, this small estate option saves you thousands of dollars … and you’ll get to keep more of your granny’s assets.
The truth about mobile homes
Although small estates are spared most of the probate process, there’s another item of property that some attorneys mistakenly think is included in the process: Mobile homes.
Instead of a condo, let’s say that granny of yours had owned a nice mobile home in a trailer park. That’s even better for you. Under California estate law, the transfer of ownership can take place without the involvement of any probate whatsoever.
Didn’t know that?
There are many details of the estate and probate process that can be easily overlooked or misunderstood. Let the law offices of Christopher B. Johnson help you with the legal ins and outs and answer your questions.
They have an experienced team of attorneys and paralegals who are familiar with these matters. Set up a consultation with them. Give them a call today and don’t worry—you will get a call back!