Probate is a court process in California that facilitates the legal transfer of assets from a deceased person to their named beneficiaries or heirs.  It is often expensive, time consuming and can delay the transfer of assets to loved ones for many months and in some cases, years.

However, the process is necessary to ensure the estate is administered according to the will, or in the absence of a will, according to the California probate code.  The process also helps to ensure that the decedents debts and outstanding obligations are paid to creditors, the state and the IRS.

Fortunately, however, not all assets are subject to the expenses and delays of the probate court following the death of a loved one.  Here is a brief overview of some assets that may avoid oversight from the probate courts:

  • Property held in joint tenancy
  • Other jointly owned assets
  • Assets with named beneficiaries such as insurance policies, IRAs and annuities
  • Assets placed in a living trust
  • Informal trust accounts, also referred to as Totten Trusts or payable on death (POD) accounts
  • Banking and investment products, such as savings, checking accounts, CDs, and brokerage accounts with a Transfer on Death (TOD) beneficiary
  • Your spouse’s share of the community property you own together
  • Small gifts of your personal property


Keep in mind that while these assets generally are not subject to probate, there may be instances when they will need to go before the court.  This typically happens when a beneficiary is not properly named or is no longer alive at the time of the deceased’s passing.

The best thing to do if you have questions about which assets may or may not go through the probate court following the death of a loved one is to contact an experienced Orange County probate attorney. Here at Morgan Law Group, we are dedicated to providing individuals and families in Orange, Los Angeles, Riverside and San bernardino Counties with the information and compassionate guidance they need during a time of loss.  To schedule a complimentary appointment at our Newport Beach estates and probate law firm, please call (949) 260-1400.