Most California residents want to spare their heirs the difficulty, time and costs associated with probate proceedings. There are a lot of different strategies one can employ to eliminate the need for probate. One way involves the elimination of probate for specific assets, and it involves the use of joint property.
Let’s say you own a classic Mustang convertible and you’d like your grandson to receive the vehicle after you’re gone. However, you don’t want your grandson to wait through probate proceedings to get access to your car. By giving your grandson joint ownership of the vehicle, when you die, the car will automatically be his, and it won’t have to go through probate.
How joint property works to avoid probate
You can establish any piece of property as jointly-owned between you and another person with the “right of survivorship.” In California, there are two primary ways to establish joint tenancy or joint ownership that offer the right of survivorship:
Joint tenancy with the right of survivorship: This is the most common form of joint ownership — for non-married people — in which two people have equal ownership of a property, and in the event that one of them dies, the living partner automatically receives full ownership.
Community property: Another way to establish joint property rights is to get married. In California, since it’s a community property state, getting married means that when you die, all of your marital property will go to your spouse. It is therefore important to draft a will if you wish for specific assets to go to specific people other than your spouse. In the case of those special assets, you might want to create a joint tenancy with the right of survivorship, but first it will be important to gain agreement from your spouse to remove those items from the marital estate.
Consider every contingency when creating your probate avoidance plan
California residents can do more than establish specific property as joint property to avoid probate for their heirs. For example, special trust accounts can be devised to protect more assets from probate. The more you know about probate avoidance strategies, the better you’ll be able to select which strategies are most appropriate for your and your family’s needs.