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Is it possible to avoid the probate process?

On Behalf of | Aug 4, 2023 | Probate

The timeline of an estate’s probate administration varies on the circumstances surrounding the estate. Probate can finish as quickly as four months for simple estates, while others may take more than a year due to their complexity. Since probate is a lengthy and costly process, some may wonder whether it is possible to expedite or skip it.

While we cannot shorten the probate timeline during the proceedings, there are instances when an estate skips probate altogether.

Direct transfer of assets through a trust

If the decedent left a trust, the assets in that trust do not have to go through probate. Instead, the trust administrator will distribute the assets directly to the beneficiaries according to the trust’s instructions.

Small estates skip probate, too

California estates with a total value amounting to less than $184,500, as of this writing, are considered small estates and skip probate. In lieu of probate, the estate’s heir or beneficiary can file a Small Estate Affidavit to finalize the transfer. There are, however, other requirements to qualify for this method. For one, there should be no existing probate case yet and the applicant must file the affidavit at least 40 days after the estate owner has passed.

Marriage can exempt the estate from probate

While it may not always be the case, especially if other estate planning documents state otherwise, most of a married estate owner’s assets usually transfer automatically to their surviving spouse. If there is no will, California’s intestacy laws will apply, which provides the estate distribution rules depending on the decedent’s available survivors.

Check what applies to your case

The lengthy duration and costly expenses of administering an estate can cause additional stress and worries to heirs and beneficiaries. Knowing that there are estates that skip probate can help ease those emotions. If you are unsure whether an estate is exempt from probate, you may seek guidance from an estate planning expert to help you navigate your options.