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California Lawyers Association

Orange County Probate Law Lawyer

Orange County, California, probate is a legal proceeding in Orange County Superior Court to wind up a person's legal and financial affairs after death if the decedent was domiciled in Orange County, California at the date of death. Estates that are valued at more than $166,250.00 (including only probate assets) generally have to be probated.

However, if the personal property assets owned by the deceased person, exclusive of those which pass by operation of law (see below, joint tenancy property, POD accounts, life insurance, etc.), do not exceed $166,250.00 in value, a beneficiary may execute an affidavit requiring a financial institution to deliver those assets to the beneficiary. This procedure does not apply to real property.

Assets inherited by the surviving spouse or registered domestic partner can be transferred with a streamlined procedure, using a document called a Spousal (or Domestic Partner) Property Petition. The probate court is involved, but the process is simple and quick. There is no limit on the value of property that can be transferred this way.

In general, assets that do not have to be probated are:
  1. Jointly held assets. Jointly owned assets that transfer to the surviving owner by right of survivorship. This means that when one of the joint tenants dies, the survivor takes over ownership of the deceased joint tenant’s share in the property; no probate required in this situation. A similar situation exists with respect to married couples who hold title to real property as husband and wife, as community property, with right of survivorship. All that is required is recording an Affidavit – Death of Joint Tenant to transfer ownership of the joint tenancy interest;
  2. Assets that have designated a beneficiary. Financial institutions offer “Payable on Death” or “POD” accounts. This is a designation that requires the financial institution to pay over the proceeds of the account to the identified individual(s) who is to receive it, as directed by the deceased person. Life insurance also does not require probate, assuming that there is a named beneficiary for the proceeds. This is also true for retirement benefits; typically, if married, the spouse is named as the primary beneficiary; and
  3. Assets that are in a trust. If the deceased person has a trust with real and/or personal property titled in the name of the trust no probate is required. However, even if a deceased person has a trust, if the trust is not “funded” with the assets of the deceased person prior to death, a probate will likely be required to have those assets transferred to the trust for distribution in accordance with the trust terms.

If you wish to gain more information on Orange County, California probate or if you need the general assistance of a probate lawyer, please contact me for a free consultation. I will spend time with you to answer your questions. You can reach me by phone at (949) 243-0408, by email at wksweeney@gmail.com or through my online contact form.

Client Reviews
Earlier this year, we were searching for an attorney to process a Heggstad Petition. We did a search on Google and read an article that was written by William Sweeney. The article was very clearly written and expressed almost the exact situation we found ourselves in, so I emailed William to interview him. He spent a good amount of time (for free) listening to the background of our situation...I highly recommend William for probate/Heggstad issues in California. Emma
I would highly recommend hiring Mr. Sweeney for your Probate or Heggstad petition needs! He was amazing and super easy to work with! He had my Heggstad drafted and filed within 1 week from when I provided all the info to him. 60 days later, I hear that the Judge granted everything asked for in the petition. John
Bill Sweeney and his incomparable paralegal Jennifer Fejzic represented and advised me through the probate of a parent's estate. Having practiced law myself for over 30 years, I expected expertise, precision, and wisdom -- all of which Bill and Jennifer richly delivered, promptly and at a reasonable, indeed more than fair, fee. I recommend Bill and Jennifer with gratitude and confidence. Greg