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What happens to the remaining assets in probate?

Navigating the probate process can be complex for your whole family. Thankfully, your loved one’s estate plan can help make probate easier since it provides directions of your loved one’s wishes and gifts their assets to surviving family members.

However, you come to own so many things in your life, from real estate property to personal belongings. You may wonder: what will happen to any assets if the will does not specifically describe how to manage them?

They become part of the residuary estate

As the term “residue” implies, the residuary estate includes all of the assets left over after the executor of the will:

  • Pays remaining debts on the estate;
  • Pays administrative expenses and fees;
  • Pays for funeral expenses;
  • Distributes specific bequests to beneficiaries.

Assets left after these steps are considered part of the residuary estate. The residuary estate can also include assets designated to a beneficiary who previously passed away – if there is no direction on what to do with those assets otherwise.

A will rarely covers every asset an individual owns. That is simply not realistic. Therefore, if you and your family are facing probate and managing your loved one’s assets after they are gone, it is important to be aware that their estate will likely involve residual assets.

So, what happens to these assets in probate?

Generally, there are two ways that the residuary estate is handled:

  1. Distribution according to your loved one’s wishes: If there is a residuary clause in your loved one’s will that determines what to do with these remaining assets, then the executor will distribute the assets as directed in the clause.
  2. Distribution according to intestate: If your loved one’s will did not include a residuary clause, those assets will still be distributed to heirs – they are simply subject to California’s intestate succession laws and rules.

When you and your family face probate, there are many details and elements regarding estate planning and probate to understand. It can all feel overwhelming, but it can help to consult an experienced probate attorney to help you through every step of the process.

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