In California, if you have an estate worth more than $150,000 and no will, the estate has to pass through probate court and will be subject to fees. And probate fees can by high. For example, an estate worth $250,000 will get charged $8,000 in probate fees. The best way to avoid probate court and probate fees is to have a lawyer create a thorough will. And you need to keep that will up to date.
Even if you have an estate worth less than $150,000, you should have a will. Passing away without a will is a good way to create problems in your family. However, if you want to know how to calculate the value of your estate as seen by the probate court, use the following guide for identifying exclusions:
• California does not include any property you own out of state
• You do not include any property with joint tenancy.
• You do not include any community property with right of survivorship.
• You only include half the value of any other community property.
• Life insurance is not considered part of your estate.
• Cars are not included in the calculation.
• Financial accounts with multiple owners are not included in the calculation.
• Assets held in a trust are usually not included.
If you use the general guidelines above and find that your estate is close to the $150,000 mark, don’t risk probate court fees. Hire a lawyer. The money you invest up front is well worth the savings to your estate.