Top view of probate law book with gavel on white background

Joint Ownership in Probate 

Law Office of Rodney Gould June 13, 2023

When a person dies in California, the decedent's estate, assets, and surviving family members must pass through the probate process. During probate, the deceased person's assets are gathered and assessed, debts and taxes are paid, and the remaining assets are transferred to the rightful inheritors. 

However, probate is a costly and time-consuming process that may reduce the size of the estate and the amount of assets and funds left to be inherited by beneficiaries. In fact, statistics have revealed that the probate process can easily gulp from 3% to 7% or more of the total estate value. Thankfully, there are certain ways to avoid probate in California, including living trusts and joint ownership. 

Attorney Rodney Gould has the diligence and expertise to advise and direct clients in the legal matters of estate administration and probate. As an experienced California probate attorney, Rodney can tell you about the state's probate process and what happens to jointly-owned assets in probate. The firm proudly serves clients across Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Beverly Hills, and Studio City, California. 

Probate in California

Probate can be described as a court-supervised process that is often required to settle the decedent's estate and final affairs and distribute assets to rightful beneficiaries and heirs. During the California probate process, the court will appoint an executor or administrator who will collect and evaluate the estate's assets, pay taxes and debts, and determine beneficiaries and heirs. 

Do Jointly-Owned Assets Go Through Probate?

Jointly-owned assets comprise any property or asset that is owned by more than one person. In jointly-owned assets, both owners will be listed on the title of the property. Common examples of jointly-owned property include real estate property, motor vehicles, and joint bank accounts. 

If an asset is listed with more than one owner, the property will be automatically transferred to the surviving owner(s) – when one owner dies. Thus, jointly-owned assets are usually not included in a decedent's estate and will not pass through probate. 

Ways to Avoid Probate

Furthermore, avoiding probate can help save cost and time and ensure that assets and funds are available to surviving loved ones immediately after a person's demise. Here are some possible ways to avoid probate: 

  • living trusts 

  • joint tenancy or jointly-owned assets with the "right of survivorship."  

  • beneficiary designations 

  • tenancy by the entirety 

  • payable on death accounts 

  • transfer on death accounts 

In California, any property owned in joint tenancy or community property with the right of survivorship will be automatically transferred to the surviving owner(s) when one owner dies. As a result, joint ownership remains a great option to avoid expensive and costly probate proceedings. A wise estate planning lawyer can evaluate your personal situation and help determine the ideal option that best fits your unique needs. 

Offering You Experienced Legal Counsel

Court-supervised probate in California is usually lengthy, expensive, and may involve several complicated procedures. Conversely, avoiding the probate process can help fast-track the estate administration process, save time and cost, and ensure that more assets and funds are available to surviving loved ones. Therefore, consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney is crucial for detailed guidance and to explore your options to avoid probate. 

Attorney Rodney Gould focuses on giving trusted advocacy and legal counsel to clients in estate planning and estate administration-related matters. Attorney Rodney can assess your estate, identify jointly-owned assets, or explore your other options to avoid probate. 

Contact the Law Office of Rodney Gould today to schedule a simple consultation with an experienced probate lawyer. Attorney Rodney Gould has the knowledgeable guidance you need to make intelligent decisions about avoiding probate and your other estate planning matters. The firm proudly serves clients across Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Beverly Hills, and Studio City, California.