The probate process can be costly and time consuming. As a result, family members and estate planners may want to be familiar with potential methods to avoid probate.
To begin with, it is helpful in the first place to be knowledgeable about what to watch for and potential problems that can pop up when estate planning and executing estate planning documents. Otherwise, there are a variety of different methods that may help families avoid the financial and time-related costs associated with the probate process. One option is a simplified form of probate that can be initiated through a spousal property petition that transfers assets from a deceased spouse to a surviving spouse. If one spouse has given away community assets then a community property claims dispute may also be made.
Another option is a Heggstad petition or 850 petition that applies in circumstances when property was left out of trust that was intended to be included in the trust and provides for a simplified proceeding that will avoid probate. The process may allow the filing party to take the property back and avoid probate. The assets should be identified in writing and have been intended for trust inclusion.
Additionally, 17200 petitions can be brought in circumstances related to a trust such as accounting, surcharge, breach of fiduciary duty, petition for instruction and a petition to compel distribution situations and concerns. When a trust has multiple interpretations and the trustee is seeking the protection of a court order to clarify inconsistencies and protect them from liability they can seek a petition for instruction to receive direction from the court. On the other hand, a trustee, executor, power of attorney or executor who is in violation of the fiduciary duties, may be suspended or removed through a removal or potential surcharge petition.
Lastly, a contest may be brought against estate planning documents such as a will if the party bringing the will contest believes they are invalid documents. There are many complexities associated with estate planning and the probate process which is what makes it helpful for estate planners and their families to have trained guidance and be as familiar as possible with the different options and resources available to them.