Can You Fast-Track Probate?

Laguna Niguel estate planning attorney

Probate is known as a time-consuming legal procedure that slows down the inheritance process and can lead to large attorney fees. You may be wondering if there are alternatives that would be less expensive and have a faster timeline. A Laguna Niguel estate planning attorney can help you find alternatives to the traditional probate experience.

Whether you are creating an estate plan for yourself or handling a loved one's estate, professional legal services can help you learn more about this process and how to avoid probate court.

What is Probate?

The probate court assesses a deceased person's estate and determines how to divide the assets. Whether or not there is a will, the court can oversee the distribution of assets. On the other hand, if there is one, the probate court can declare it valid or reject it. Once they approve a will, they will appoint an executor to carry out its terms.

When someone dies without a will, they are considered intestate. In this situation, the court will use existing succession law to divide assets. The deceased's wishes are not taken into account, because there is no formal record of them.

If the family members disagree with the court about how the case was handled, they can open an estate litigation case to argue against it, lengthening the process as a result. Probate can potentially last many months, causing beneficiaries to rack up legal fees and cause significant delays in receiving inheritances.

It also ties up the property that is undergoing probate, meaning that beneficiaries will need to wait months before they can access it.

If you want to make sure your will is clear and legally valid, an Orange County wills and trusts lawyer can help. They can also assist you with related documents such as your advance directives, living will, and more.

Are there Probate Shortcuts?

California probate code includes some options that allow beneficiaries to skip or shorten the probate process in certain situations.

The surviving spouse in a marriage, for example, can often skip probate. Beneficiaries of a small estate may also be able to skip probate or avoid estate tax liability. We'll go into more detail about these options below.

However, if you are creating your estate planning documents, we recommend working with a trust attorney in Orange County. You will learn about ways to reduce your estate taxes, options for smooth transfer of assets, and

Surviving Spouse Shortcut

A surviving spouse can petition to bypass probate. When it comes to personal possessions like furniture, clothing, and similar items, no process is needed at all.

The right of survivorship applies when spouses own property jointly or through community property. It allows the survivor to take over full ownership of the property without going to court.

For property that is not owned jointly, there is the spousal property petition. There is no limit to the value of the property that can be transferred through this process.

If you want to make sure your estate plans make things easy for your spouse, it's important to see a will and trusts lawyer with in-depth knowledge of Orange County courts

Small Estate Probate

Small estates qualify for a streamlined alternative to probate that is far more convenient. These, as of April 2022, are estates that are under $184,500 in value.

However, it is possible to qualify even if your total assets are worth more than this. Your probate estate excludes many assets, such as the following:

  • Vehicles
  • Real estate outside your state of residency
  • Property held in a trust
  • Life insurance policies
  • Anything else that would not be subject to probate

Since you can exclude many assets from your estate this way, it's possible to qualify for small estate probate even if your actual estate surpasses the stated limit. An Orange County trust expert can help you learn more and decide if this approach works for you.


Another option is to create a trust to pass on assets seamlessly to your loved ones without going through probate. A living trust attorney can help you create a trust that suits your specific needs and those of your family.

Your trust estate is private, unlike a will, which becomes a part of the public record. Trusts also provide asset protection. When assets are transferred to a trust, the legal title will belong to the trustee. This protects your assets from personal injury cases, other lawsuits, and creditors.

It's also possible to name beneficiaries for certain assets, including bank accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies. These assets will bypass probate and go directly to the beneficiaries.

How Can Estate Planning Make the Probate Process Faster?

When you work with an experienced estate planning attorney, you can identify options that will expedite the probate process or allow your heirs to bypass it completely.

Creating living trusts is a popular choice among those who have large or complex estates. Using a trust instead of a will can lower your overall estate value—potentially allowing it to qualify for a small estate probate procedure.

A revocable living trust is an excellent option for anyone who wants to maintain access to their assets. Once the owner passes away, the assets will automatically transfer to the beneficiaries according to the trust document. Every revocable trust is different, and you can add special stipulations to protect minor children, disabled heirs, and more.

An irrevocable trust cannot be changed, limiting its flexibility. However, this type of trust offers significant potential tax benefits. A trust and estate planning lawyer can draft a customized trust for you and help with trust administration as well.

Choosing the Right Trust and Estate Planning Attorney

If your goal is to skip probate and handle your estate legal matters as efficiently as possible, hire a trust attorney in Orange County. Our legal team provides professional service and can answer all of your questions about trust and estate litigation.

Set up a free consultation with a legal expert! We will discuss your options and explain what our law firm can do for you. We have been serving Orange County, CA for many years, from Buena Park to San Clemente. Contact us at 949-867-4818 at Parker Law Offices today!

Maria Parker assists her clients plan for their end of life health care wishes and the ultimate distribution of their wealth after death. She personally experienced the importance of planning at the time her father passed away.

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Estate Planning Attorney in Orange County, CA
Wills & Trusts, Estate & Trust Administration, Probate, and Health Care Power of Attorney
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