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What is a Probate?

A probate is a court process used when legal title ownership must be transferred from the name of the deceased (aka, “the decedent”) and into the name of the heir or beneficiary. It is appropriate when there is no estate planning, the Living or Revocable Trust is not properly funded, or when the decedent has only a Will (and no Living Trust).

If there is a Will, the judge determines its validity and appoints an executor, usually the person nominated by the decedent in the Will. If there is no Will, a judge will appoint a personal representative in order of priority under the Probate Code to act as administrator. The executor or administrator is responsible for gathering all the decedent’s assets, paying the debts and expenses of the estate, and then distributing the remainder of the estate to the proper beneficiaries. Depending on the circumstances, the entire probate administration can take a year or longer.

Common Assets

Below is a chart describing the types of assets a person can own. Review who should receive each asset when you pass away. If no valid mechanism for transferring it to the new owner(s) currently exists, it may be necessary for your heirs to open probate to properly transfer the asset to your legal heirs and beneficiaries.

Real Property Asset

  • Residence
  • Commercial Building
  • Rental Property
  • Vacation Home / Time-Share
  • Agricultural Land
  • Unimproved Lot

Personal Property Asset

  • Cash
  • Uncashed Checks
  • Bank Accounts
  • Vehicles
  • Bank and Money Market Accounts
  • Mutual Funds
  • Stocks
  • Ownership Interest in a Business
  • Insurance Policies
  • Antiques and Collectibles
  • Art
  • Royalty or Patent Rights
  • Jewelry
  • Furniture
  • Digital Assets
  • Personal Rights

Give Brockway Law a call if you have any questions.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.

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Giuliana V. Brockway

As Principal of Brockway Law in Santa Rosa, California, my practice includes estate planning, wills and trusts, trust and estate litigation, trust and estate administration and probate matters.