What protection does your family have during the probate process?

Probate is the process by which the Court oversees the administration of your estate, including the payment of any debts and the transfer of your assets to your beneficiaries or heirs. What some people don't know, however, is that there are a number of statutes within the California Probate Code that are intended to protect your family (e.g., surviving spouse and your descendants).

While this is typically a positive benefit for your family, it may not be what you intended, for example, if you had others beyond your family that you wanted to care for and who you wanted to have as the beneficiaries of your estate. Under the law, your family's needs may have priority over your other beneficiaries, which may ultimately affect your estate plan.

Here are some of the family protections available:

  1. Family Allowance - An allowance that is provided to your family during the probate administration period, which would utilize the estate assets.
  2. Probate Homestead - May allow your family to continue using your home after your death, which would prevent other beneficiaries from receiving the home.
  3. Small Estate Set Aside - A court may allow estates that are worth $20,000 or less to be set aside for the benefit of a surviving spouse or minor children to the exclusion of the beneficiaries named in a Will.

Understanding the impact of the provisions in your estate plan is vital in ensuring that you and your family have a plan that is predictable and that your wishes are ultimately carried out.