Q: Is it ever possible for someone without a trust to own real estate in California and AVOID probate given the high values of real estate?

by | Dec 6, 2023 | Estate Planning, Q&A |

A: Yes, it is! I recently got a call from someone whose mother died in 1974 and their small house in South Napa was probated way back then. It turns out the mother had 5 daughters who inherited the home. Therefore, each daughter inherited a 20% interest in the house. A couple of years ago, one of the five daughters died, and now they want to figure out what to do to get the property transferred to that daughter’s children. Since the property is worth about $700,000, a 20% interest in the house is worth $140,000, which falls below the probate minimum.

In situations like these, we can use a streamlined process and file a “Petition to Determine Succession to Real Property”. This petition requires a minimum notice period of only 15 days and is a fraction of the cost of a probate. Once the petition is granted, a certified copy of the order gets recorded, which effectively transfers the property rights without the need to open a formal probate.
The moral of this story is that while there is always going to be the general rule, there will always be times when an exception applies, so it’s important to have an estate attorney review and analyze each situation carefully!