Why You Want to Avoid Probate in Santa Barbara County

avoid probate in Santa Barbara County

One of the main benefits of estate and trust planning is the avoidance of probate proceedings.

But what does that mean? And why should you want to avoid probate in the first place?

In this blog, our Santa Barbara County estate planning attorneys will break down the meaning of probate, five reasons why you want to run the other way, and some simple yet effective ways to plan around it.

What Is Probate? 

Probate is a legal process that takes place after a person passes away.

The process involves:

  • Validating the deceased person’s will (if they had one)
  • Identifying their assets and debts
  • Paying off any outstanding debts
  • Distributing their remaining assets to their beneficiaries

Probate aims to ensure that a decedent’s estate is distributed according to their wishes or, if there is no will, according to state law. Probate is typically supervised by a court and can take several months to complete.

It is important to note that probate laws and procedures can vary by state, and seeking the advice of a Santa Barbara estate planning attorney can help ensure a smooth probate process.

5 Reasons You Want to Avoid Probate at All Costs

Probate can be time-consuming and expensive, often leading to family disputes and conflicts.

Here are five reasons why you should consider avoiding probate proceedings in Santa Barbara County.

1. It’s a Public Process

One of the main drawbacks of probate is that it is a matter of public record. Anyone can access information about the deceased person’s assets, debts, and beneficiaries.

This lack of privacy can be uncomfortable for some families, especially if they’re dealing with sensitive or personal matters.

2. It Drains Estate Assets

Probate can be expensive, with fees and costs that can quickly add up. The probate court fees, personal representative or executor fees, attorney fees, and appraisal costs can all take a significant portion of the estate’s assets, leaving less for the beneficiaries.

3. It Can Lead to Family Disputes

Probate can also lead to family feuds. Family members may disagree about the will’s validity, who should be the executor, or how the assets should be distributed.

These disputes can drag out the probate process and often require legal intervention, which can be costly.

4. It Delays Your Inheritance

Probate can take several months or even years to complete, meaning beneficiaries may have to wait a long time to receive their inheritance. This delay can be particularly frustrating for those relying on the inheritance to pay for immediate expenses, such as funeral costs or medical bills.

5. It Takes a Long Time

Probate is time-consuming and involves:

  • Validating the will
  • Identifying assets and debts
  • Paying off any outstanding debts
  • Distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries

This process can take several months to complete, and sometimes, it can take years. By avoiding probate, you can ensure a smoother transition of assets and save time and money in the process.

Simple and Effective Strategies for Avoiding Probate in Santa Barbara County

While probate is a necessary legal process in some situations, there are ways to avoid it and save time and money for your loved ones.

Here are some simple and effective strategies for avoiding probate in Santa Barbara County:

Establish a Living Trust

A revocable living trust can avoid probate. A living trust is a legal document that allows you to transfer ownership of your assets to the trust, which is then managed by a trustee of your choosing. This type of trust also allows you to act as a trustee during your lifetime so that you retain control over your assets during your lifetime.

If you choose this option, remember to select a successor trustee to assume this role upon your passing. By doing so, your assets can be distributed to your beneficiaries without going through probate proceedings.

Designate Beneficiaries on Financial Accounts

Another strategy for avoiding probate is to designate beneficiaries on your financial accounts, such as bank accounts, retirement savings, and even life insurance policies. Doing so will automatically pass these assets to your designated beneficiaries upon your death without going through probate.

Joint Ownership With Right of Survivorship

Joint ownership with the right of survivorship is a legal arrangement where two or more people own an asset together. When one owner passes away, their share automatically goes to the surviving owner(s). This can be an effective way to avoid probate for assets such as real estate and bank accounts.

Make Lifetime Gifts

Another strategy for avoiding probate is to make lifetime gifts of your assets. By doing so, you can reduce the size of your estate and the amount of real property that would need to go through probate.

However, it’s important to remember that this strategy has tax implications and potential legal issues, so it’s important to consult with an attorney or financial advisor.

By utilizing these simple and effective strategies, you can help ensure a smoother transition of your assets to your loved ones and avoid the time-consuming and often costly probate process in Santa Barbara County.

Why You Need a Santa Barbara Estate Planning Lawyer

Estate planning lawyers in Santa Barbara County are skilled at the methods required to avoid probate and wrap up the estate quickly and privately.

However, a common myth must be dispelled about avoiding probate – the fact is that the probate court may still have to be involved to a certain extent, no matter what kind of estate planning is done.

The difference is how much the probate court will actually be involved – with proper estate planning, probate court involvement will be minimal, typically consisting of light clerical issues that are easily taken care of and payment of the standard probate fee.

Contrast this with the probate process when you don’t have an estate plan which means a long and expensive process involving lots of red tape, legal fees, and bureaucracy.

If you feel that these aspects of estate planning and avoiding probate fit your goals, you should consider consulting with an estate planning lawyer at Santa Barbara Estate Planning & Elder Law. Proper estate planning will allow your loved ones to quickly settle your estate in a private, efficient manner with little interference from the probate court.

If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about avoiding probate in Santa Barbara County, please call us to schedule a consultation.

Author Bio

Julianna Malis is the Founder and Managing Partner of Santa Barbara Estate Planning & Elder Law, a Santa Barbara estate planning law firm she founded in 2014. With more than 25 years of experience practicing law, she has dedicated her career to representing clients in a wide range of legal matters, including estate planning, elder law, Medicaid and Medicare planning, probate, and other estate planning areas.

Julianna received her Juris Doctor from the University of the Pacific — McGeorge School of Law and is a member of the California State Bar Association.

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