The court proceedings known as “probate” has one primary function, to change the legal title of assets held in the name of a decedent to the name of the new legal owners (the decedent’s heirs). Although there is much more to it than that, if it weren’t for the need to change legal title upon someone’s death, there would be no need to undertake a probate.
Assets which will pass to the decedent’s lawful heirs without the need of doing a probate (in California) are: 1) life insurance and pension plans with a beneficiary designated, 2) accounts with banks, credit unions and savings and loan companies where a pay on death (“POD”) designation has been made, 3) assets held in joint tenancy (husband “or” wife), 4) real property held in community property and other assets less than $100,000.
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