When a Californian builds an estate plan, most of the attention usually goes toward protecting assets from unnecessary taxation or other threats, such as creditors. In many cases, it is possible to avoid probate and several expenses with an estate that probate includes. However, this is not always the case, and some California residents have no choice but submit their estate to probate when the time comes.
If you find that your estate cannot avoid probate entirely, then you may have a number of other opportunities to lessen the blow to your estate and your beneficiaries. However, it is unlikely that you can completely avoid every aspect of the process, so it is wise to understand what probate covers and who is responsible for overseeing it.
As with any estate planning dilemma, you should not hesitate to reach out to an experienced estate planning attorney to guide you as you plan for the future. Estate planning laws change regularly, both at a state and federal level, so keeping a professional on your team who can help you understand new risks or unanticipated complications of new laws as they emerge is always helpful.
If my estate can't avoid probate, who handles the process?
It is almost always preferable to choose someone you know and trust as an executor of your estate. If you do not appoint an executor, then a court may appoint an administrator to handle the probate process and carry out a number of duties.
While some may argue that a court-appointed administrator is more likely to understand the nuances of the law and navigate the probate process more fluidly, it is important to remember that a court-appointed administrator bear responsibility to the court more than they bear responsibility to you as an individual.
An executor you appoint is already motivated to keep your interests in mind when handling probate matters, and can preserve your wishes and resources more effectively, in many cases.
What duties does the executor perform?
Depending on the nature of your estate and the length of time necessary to properly complete the estate distribution process, your executor may perform a number of duties, including
- notifying the proper authorities of your passing
- beginning the probate process
- obtaining your will and ensure that your wishes remain honored
- managing your assets and closing out your accounts
- hiring a probate attorney
You still may not need to prepare for probate, but if you do, now is the time to begin. The longer you wait to prepare for end-of-life transition, the greater the chance that you simply never address these issues at all.
Be sure that you use all the tools you have available to protect your assets and the ones you love.