Which Assets Can Avoid Probate?

The probate process was established in order to prove the validity of wills and other estate documents, as well as distribute a person’s assets after death if they do not have a trust.  California’s Probate Code guides the process of determining whether or not a will is fit to be accepted as a true last testament and valid public document. But not everything has to be settled through probate. There are, in fact, assets that can avoid the process entirely.

Types of Probate-Free Assets 

There are generally five categories of assets that are eligible to avoid probate. Each of them has other legal measures that help define next steps outside of the probate process. They are:

  • Accounts With a Named Beneficiary

Any accounts that have a named beneficiary are exempt from the probate courts. These assets have already been legally listed with a financial institution, and are subject to what is called a “pay on death” or “transfer on death” agreement. All a beneficiary has to do in order to collect the funds is provide the user’s death certificate along with personal identification.

  • Assets held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship

The next probate-free asset category involves situations when there is a joint tenancy with right of survivorship. After one owner of a joint tenant account passes away, the surviving member immediately assumes full control of the asset in question. The only exception to the right of survivorship clause is if the now-deceased owner had only added joint ownership for convenience purposes, such as paying the bills. 

  • Assets held in Trust

A trust is one of the most common ways to avoid probate, as assets held in trust are pursuant to their own legal conditions. When you establish a trust, all assets within the trust will be distributed according to the terms put together by the owner. After he or she passes away, a trustee then acts upon the owner’s wishes. 


Note: the Probate Court may still be brought in to determine the validity of the trust, or clarify provisions of the trust document.


  • Assets intended to be held in Trust

Similar to assets already in a trust, if an asset was intended to be in a trust, it is also free from probate. Depending on the situation, if you can prove that an asset was indeed meant to be a part of the deceased’s trust, it may get grandfathered in.   However, a trustee will still need to seek the court to approve any amendment or changes to a trust or the title of a property not properly in the trust at the time of death.

  • Assets with a value less than $166,250

The final category of probate-free assets is anything with a value below $166,250. In California, that is the threshold for passing something down without needing assistance from the courts. By utilizing a summary proceeding or affidavit, one can easily hand down assets as long as they are less than the probate minimum. 


Contact Gokal Law

Do you believe the probate process is being mishandled? We’ve got your back. Contact Abbas Gokal or Alison Gokal of Gokal Law Group, Inc. Our team will diligently investigate your claims, interview witnesses, and give you the support you need to win your case. The sooner you contact us, the more effective we are at getting you the justice you deserve.

Gokal Law Group is a family firm that treats our clients as if they were our own flesh and blood. We fight for our clients as we would our own children, sisters, brothers, and parents. We are our clients’ Warriors, fighting to bring them justice and right the wrongs they have endured.

Each attorney has a specific practice area for which they are tried, tested, and battle-ready. Each has vast years of experience in their practice area, providing them the knowledge, skills, and vision to fight and win. Learn more about Gokal Law Group.

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