After you pass on, your estate will likely be subject to probate. If you live or own property in California, you will likely need to follow the state’s probate rules. Generally speaking, this process is much easier if you have written a will, and it may be possible to bypass probate with some advance planning.

Why you may want to avoid probate

It can take up to two years or more to settle a deceased person’s affairs. Furthermore, probate proceedings are a matter of public record, which means that creditors, the media or other interested parties can easily learn more about you and your family. It is also important to note that pets are generally considered as property under probate laws. You should expect the process to cost up to 10% of the value of your estate.

Many assets already pass outside of your estate

Probate only applies to assets that are held inside of your estate when you die. Generally speaking, assets such as retirement accounts, bank accounts or brokerage accounts are held outside of your estate, and they generally get transferred to their new owners per the terms of a beneficiary designation outlined during the estate planning process.

You may also be able to bypass probate by creating a trust. While you can create a trust on your own, it may be best to do so with the help of an attorney. Property is held in the name of the trust, which means that it is not part of your estate when you die.

Creating a thorough estate plan may help to save surviving family members time and money ensuring that your final wishes are respected. Creating a will, trust or other estate plan documents may also minimize the chances of family conflicts taking place after you pass on.