It is not uncommon for people to put off their estate planning until later in life. Unfortunately, tragedy does not wait for us to plan for our assets. Leaving your loved ones without a will or trust may cause them serious headaches as the process is likelier to be lengthy and handled almost strictly by California courts.

Laws for the distribution of assets and properties tend to vary state-by-state. Often, without a will, your estate will go to your spouse and/or your children regardless of the wishes for the property. In California, it is common for property to go through the probate process even without a will. Probate is the stage in which courts designate beneficiaries (if there aren’t any named, as in this case) and decide what will happen with a deceased person’s estate.

If there is a will, the California court will determine whether a will is valid and choose an executor to act according to the deceased person’s plan and debts. Without a will, the courts choose an administrator to perform asset matters on behalf of the deceased. Such matters will include paying expenses and debts and then distributing the remainder of the estate to the beneficiaries.

I want to plan for my estate, how can my loved ones skip probate?

There are certain trusts that may keep your loved ones from having to go through the probate process. The reason for this is that a trust immediately appoints the trustee as the owner of the assets or property under the trust. Whereas in the case of a will, the beneficiary does not become an owner until after your death – which is one of the reasons your will goes through probate. Consult an experienced lawyer to learn more about estate planning and California laws.