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  • Writer's pictureFamily Security Law Group

When You Die, You May Still Have To Go To Court!

Not Literally Of Course…But Your Heirs May Have To Go On Your Behalf.

Many people don’t understand that without a properly executed Will, Trust and other estate planning documents, bequeathing your assets to family, friends, or charities may not happen without approval from the Probate Court.

Often, people prepare a simple Will themselves and/or utilize an online resource with a fill-in-the-blanks document template. But frequently, these kinds of Wills are not legally valid because they are not properly executed, do not cover basic contingencies, often fail to give direction over all or some of your assets, and contain other inconsistencies or conflicting directives. These problems can invalidate a Will leaving the estate to be distributed pursuant to the Probate Court.

Even when a Will is properly executed, this may not be enough to avoid Probate Court. If your assets exceed $184,500…which is common if you own a home, savings and investment accounts, jewelry, and other holdings, those assets will be subject to Probate Court review and approval.

Another common error is how title is held to an asset. For example, people may hold title to an asset believing that if one of the owners were to die, the asset would pass to the other co-owner (typically a spouse or child) or some other person. In California, people think that if a husband and wife have title in community property, it would automatically pass to the surviving spouse. This is true of "Joint Tenancy", but not as to "Community Property". So this misunderstanding of the law could lead to a probate over a spouse's interest in an asset.

Problems occur too when certain assets like retirement accounts and life insurance policies don’t name a beneficiary or list a beneficiary who is no longer living. When this happens, the asset will generally go to the "Estate", and become part of a Probate proceeding.

Finally, some people may properly set up a Living Trust as one tool to help avoid Probate Court. But if you haven’t or forgot to move your assets into the Trust, those assets will again be subject to Probate Court.

These are just some of the issues that can cause your family to be a participant in the Probate Court after your death. Regardless if you have a small or large estate…everyone should invest in a legally compliant Will and Trust. It will save your heirs considerable headaches and expense down the road.

For more information about Wills and Trusts as well as Durable Powers of Attorney, Medical Directives, and other Estate Planning essentials, contact the lawyers at Family Security Law Group, serving families throughout the State of California.

Visit Our website at: Or call us at 805-496-4681.

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