Probate is a court-supervised process by which the estate of a deceased is settled, distributing assets according to the terms of a Will or by law, and paying debts or taxes owned by the estate. California Probate can be an expensive and time-consuming process, depending upon the size and complexity of the estate. With careful planning, however, Probate can be minimized or avoided altogether.
The Living Trust is one vehicle for transferring assets which avoids Probate since the assets are already transferred during your lifetime. Other devices which transfer assets without Probate include insurance policies and retirement benefits plans with named surviving beneficiaries. Jointly-titled property held as community property with right of survivorship, or jointly-held bank accounts can also pass to the co-owner without the need for Probate, however, there are potential tax and legal liability consequences to placing someone on the title to your assets, therefore you should consult with an experienced estate planning attorney before changing the title to your assets.