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What is a “probate transfer?”

After the loss of a loved one, many people only want time to work through their grief. That is why even thinking about the probate process is a point of stress for many California families. Experiencing this stress often leads people to wonder why the process is even necessary.

While it can seem overwhelming to file a petition to start probate and move forward with this process, it is an important step to take to complete property transfers properly and with respect to your loved one’s wishes.

Transfers are an essential part of the probate process

As we have discussed in past blog posts, probate is the legal procedure to:

  • Verify that an individual’s will is valid
  • Administer their estate and assets accordingly
  • Handle the individual’s remaining financial responsibilities

When someone establishes a will – or in some cases, a trust – they essentially indicate who will inherit their assets, and how they will receive them. And inheriting property through a loved one’s will requires a transfer of ownership.

But what does this mean?

In reality, the probate process is not only about verifying the will but also officially transferring ownership of assets. Even if a will is valid and bequeaths an asset to you – say, your loved one’s house – there is still an extra step to take to make sure you are the owner of this property in the eyes of the law.

Probate permits the court to transfer the title of an asset, or ownership, to the heirs included in the will. Understanding the reason and mechanics of a probate transfer is easier when you consider why some assets are required to go through probate and others are not:

  • Non-probate assets often include property or accounts that already have a process for a transfer. For example, retirement accounts do not have to go through probate to transfer ownership because they already name a beneficiary.
  • Probate assets, on the other hand, include property that was often owned solely by your loved one. They hold ownership of their house or vehicle by holding the title of that asset. And a probate transfer allows the court to change that and transfer the title to the heir inheriting that property.

Transfers are a critical part of the probate process, if not the primary goal of it. It is often helpful for families to speak with an experienced probate attorney to ensure they fully understand how the process and the transfer of the estate works, so they can protect their loved one’s wishes and their own rights.

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