A client recently presented me with the following factual situation. Her father, a California resident, had approximately $150,000 of stocks held in his individual name at the time of his death. His wife (the client’s mother) survived him, and the stocks were acquired during the marriage using community property funds. Her father had written a Will, but no Living Trust. The company issuing the stocks would not transfer title of the stock to the surviving spouse, even though it was presented with a copy of the Will leaving everything to the surviving spouse. Based upon those assumptions, my analysis was as follows:
- First check with the organization’s transfer agent responsible for handling transfers of the stock in question to assure that there is no “pay on death” beneficiary designated who would take title to the assets merely upon proving that the owner is now deceased.
- Assuming there is no POD beneficiary designated, your options are:
- Bring a “spousal set aside” petition before the Superior Court in the county where your father resided. This is a procedure permitted by California Probate Code Section 13650 et seq. and can be achieved much more quickly and less expensively than probate. List all assets you want to have the court determine were community property and ask the court to order title confirmed to your mother; or
- File a petition to probate your father’s will.