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Modern Estate Planning Blog

Elder Law & Special Needs Planning

How to Avoid the Need for a Probate Lawyer in Sacramento

December 17, 2013

If you are dealing with an estate that has to go through the probate process in California, your smartest move is likely going to be to work with a Sacramento probate lawyer. There are cases where very simple estates will move through fairly easily, but there is still a matter of paperwork, accounting, etc. to consider; and a probate lawyer can save you an incredible amount of time and hassle.

The best way to avoid the need for a probate lawyer in Sacramento is to make sure that your estate planning has been done in advance. This means that you’ve set up wills, trusts, and any other applicable legal documents so that those you leave behind won’t have to deal with taking the entire estate through the court system. Trusts, such as a revocable living trust, are one of the most common tools for avoiding probate, but there are some other possible options.

Small Estates

Some people think that having a will means that your estate will bypass the probate process. Any reputable probate lawyer in Sacramento will tell you, however, that this isn’t the case. Having a will is certainly still important, as it provides important directions for the dissemination of your estate, and indicates your choice of who will handle it, but it doesn’t get your heirs off the hook when it comes to probate.

If the estate is truly a “small” one, then you may be able to avoid a formal probate court action. This can happen in cases where there the only thing left behind is personal property. In these situations, there is no real estate to be inherited. The laws regarding the allowable value of an estate to be considered in this group does change, so it might be helpful to at least chat with a Sacramento probate lawyer to see if the estate qualifies. If so, the heirs may be able to create an affidavit that will work instead of going through probate. There may also be some simplified court procedures available to heirs of these very small estates.

Transfer-on-Death Deeds

Many states, but not California, allow for real estate to be transferred after death without going through probate. Again, laws change regularly, so it’s a good idea to check with a Sacramento probate lawyer or estate planning attorney to ensure that this is an option for you. This kind of deed needs to be created in advance and will specify that it doesn’t take effect until the owner of the property has died. Fortunately, transfer-on-death deeds can be revoked if the situation changes before the owner passes away. This is not just a “gentleman’s agreement” and requires legal preparation, signatures, and notarization before being filed.

These are just a couple of tools available to those who want to avoid the eventual need for a probate lawyer. If they have not been put into place, or you’re not sure if these rules apply to you, it’s advisable to speak with a qualified attorney in advance.

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Heather was wonderful. She explained, in understandable terms, why it is important to establish an estate plan. I never realized what would happen, without a plan in place, and we could not bear the thought of our child in arms of absolute strangers while the court system sorted out his future.

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