Since the California probate process can be long, difficult, and lead to disputes over the estate, many people look for ways to avoid it altogether. Estate planning is one tool that can be used to keep some assets out of probate and establish a clear picture of your final wishes.
As the New York Times reports, trusts are a very popular way to avoid probate court. You will need to consult with a lawyer to set up a trust, and the costs can range from $500 up to $20,000, but this is one way to keep your assets out of probate and determine ownership after death yourself. While some people transfer bank accounts to their children before they die, some experts warn that this can cause familial strife. Since people are living longer, healthier lives, this can put children in a position of controlling the purse strings for a significant amount of time, allowing resentment to grow. There are payable on death accounts that allow for easy transfer, or you can establish a limited partnership to ensure transfer of funds. While it may be tempting to put your home into a child's name in advance, if he or she runs into financial trouble your property will be considered an asset that a creditor can seize in a bankruptcy.
Consulting with a professional will help you to arrange your finances in the most advantageous way. After your plans are made, it is essential that you communicate with your beneficiaries what the plans are so there are no surprises. This can help to prevent disputes. Some people even write a clause into their will to prevent it from being contested in court. This ensures that any person who brings a legal dispute in court loses their portion of the inheritance.