What is a Probate?

Probate refers to court proceedings required to administer the assets of a deceased person, whether or not the person has a will. In other words, if you only have a will, your assets may still be subject to probate.

Sometimes, a person may only have a few assets and it may not require a probate—but it will still require some administration to transfer those assets to one or more beneficiaries. In California, this is called Small Estate Administration.

If there are assets that remain titled in a person's name (or remain under the legal ownership of the person) after the person's death, then a legal procedure must be followed in order to transfer those assets to the ultimate recipient of that person's estate (the beneficiary/-ies).

Assets that are not subject to probate include assets held in a trust and assets passing by operation of law. Assets to pass by operation of law refers to assets which pass to some third person as a result of the owner's death, and is typically associated with assets having a formal chain of title. Some examples of this include assets held in joint tenancy, assets with a beneficiary designation, assets with a Payable-on-Death (POD) designation, and similar forms.

There are also other ways to avoid having an asset be subject to probate, but it can be complicated.

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