House and contractThis is the fifth post in our series on the handling of California probate cases in which one has died without a will. Our last post discussed how heirs are determined when one has died intestate. It is important to quickly determine who may, and who may not, inherit in such a situation. In this article we will discuss another important issue – understanding how property is divided when there was no will left by the testator. The first step is to determine what property is to be included in the probate. The second step will involve resolving any disputes over the property which is included. We cannot stress enough that this is a complicated process and that one should contact an attorney immediately.

Certain types of property will not be involved in California probates where the deceased left no last will & testament

Probate is a process by which property passes to one’s heirs. This process, however, typically only involves property which one owned by themselves and which have no mechanism for dealing with one’s death. Many types of property do not fit this description and are typically exempt from the probate process. Assets which will often pass to an heir or heirs without being involved in probate include:

  • Property passed to a living trust as part of one’s estate planning
  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Retirement accounts
  • Bank accounts which name a beneficiary
  • Jointly owned property which includes rights of survivorship

Such assets will usually pass to their new owner through the completing of the holding company’s required paperwork. An example of this would be a bank giving a checking account to a beneficiary upon completion of the required forms. For many individuals with little net worth, these types of situations may make probate unnecessary.

Property will often be included in a probate if it was solely owned by the deceased and it included no rights of survivorship. Examples of such items may include autos, collectibles, personal items, real estate not jointly owned, and other assets. It is crucial that all property be properly included in a probate to ensure that it goes to the rightful heir. This is often a problem in California as well as in other states.

The discovery process will be crucial to helping San Bernardino heirs resolve property disputes in a California probate

Quite often, there may be disputes over whether property should be included in the estate. An example of such a dispute may occur when there is a disagreement over whether the decedent actually owned the item. If, for example, the decedent had a bar of gold in his or her home when he or she died then it is not necessarily true that he or she owned it. If a party claims to be the rightful owner of the bar of gold then he or she will need to provide proof of the ownership and discovery may be used to debunk any false claims.

If you find yourself involved in a property dispute then it is suggested that you contact our lawyer immediately. Results vary based on facts, circumstances, and legal issues involved. All cases must be properly reviewed prior to determining applicable law and likely conclusion. Our office also handles matters in Rancho Cucamonga, Fontana, Ontario, Victorville, Rialto, Hesperia, Chino, Upland, Apple Valley, Redlands, Highland, Colton, Yucaipa, Montclair, elsewhere in the Inland Empire, as well as Los Angeles and Orange County.