You may have heard someone say that something is in probate after a person’s death. This refers to the California probate court that handles estates after a person dies. Not everything goes to court, though. According to the Superior Court of California, the court only steps in when it needs to because the law outlines who are heirs to an estate and how estates must be divided. In addition, if the person has a will, it usually is enough to handle the distribution of the estate without a need for it to go to court.

If you were to die and you do not have a will but you are married, then everything you owned will likely go to your spouse if it is all jointed owned or considered community property. Any property that you owned jointly with someone will go to the other owner upon your death, regardless of who that person is.

The court will oversee distribution of your property upon your death in most cases where you have a will or to ensure that the appropriate heirs receive the property if you had no will. The law states your heirs are your spouse and children first. If you are not married and have no children, then your next nearest relatives would be the heirs.  

Most estate matters can be handled with very little interference by the court. Usually, an estate with a value under $150,000 will not be handled in full probate proceedings. While this information should not be taken as legal advice, it can help you understand the process and what to expect.