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How Can I Help My Family Avoid Probate Litigation in California?

Posted on in Estate Planning

Oakland Probate Litigation AttorneyWhen a person dies, the executor of their estate and their other family members will need to determine how to carry out their final wishes. These matters may be addressed during the probate process, in which the executor named in the person’s will files the will in probate court, notifies the person’s heirs and other interested parties, and oversees the process of distributing the person’s property to their heirs. If a will is contested, probate litigation may be necessary to resolve these disputes. These matters can be very difficult for family members, and if you are looking to minimize these issues and help your family avoid litigation, you can take certain steps during the estate planning process to prevent potential disputes.

Taking Steps to Avoid a Contested Estate

In many cases, wills and estates are contested because some family members are unhappy about the decisions that were made, or the terms of a person’s will may be unclear or fail to address certain assets. To prevent these types of disputes, it is important to make sure a will is drafted properly. By fully detailing your wishes and instructions, you can avoid uncertainty and do everything you can to minimize potential disputes regarding the distribution of your assets.

In addition to addressing issues in your will, you can also take steps to make sure certain assets can be passed to beneficiaries outside of the probate process. Ways to do so include:

  • Living trusts - A trust will allow you to place certain assets in the control of a trustee. With a revocable living trust, you can serve as the trustee of a trust, and you can name a successor trustee who will take control of the trust following your death and follow your instructions for distributing the assets to your beneficiaries. While a trust can be contested similarly to a will, you can make sure the terms of your trust are clear to avoid potential disputes.

  • Joint tenancy - If you co-own certain types of property with your spouse or other family members, they will have a “right of survivorship,” and ownership will automatically be transferred to the other owner(s) after your death. While joint tenancy will ensure that your spouse will maintain ownership of certain assets, such as your home, it may also be used to transfer assets such as vehicles to other family members.

  • Transfer-on-death (TOD) deeds - If you own real estate, you can create a deed for real estate or other property that will transfer ownership to a beneficiary following your death without the need for probate. These types of deeds are generally revocable, and you will be able to maintain complete control of the property while you are still alive.

  • Payable-on-death (POD) designations - Bank accounts, retirement accounts, stocks, and bonds can be given a POD designation, allowing the funds in these accounts to be transferred to a beneficiary following your death. These transfers do not need to be addressed during the probate process.

Contact Our Oakland Estate Planning Lawyer

To ensure that your family can avoid difficulties as they handle your final affairs, you can work with an experienced attorney to address potential issues and make decisions about how you want certain issues to be handled. Attorney Martin Alperen can answer your questions, explain your options, and help you create an estate plan that meets your needs. Contact our San Francisco wills and trusts attorney at 415-534-1200 to arrange a free consultation today.





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