Monthly Archives: January 2012

California Probate Limit Changes for Avoiding Probate

California Probate Code 13100 was recently revised to increase from $100,000 to $150,000 the size of a California estate (excluding real property) that can be collected without probate court administration. The size of  a decedent’s California real property that can be transferred without probate has been increased to $50,000. (Probate Code section 13200).

If you are a California resident, in reflecting on your own possible probate, understand that many assets are not subject to a probate court administration. For example, these assets are usually not part of probate at death: joint tenancy (where there is a surviving joint tenant); life insurance (where your named beneficiary survives); IRAs(where your named beneficiary survives) ; pension plan benefits (where your named beneficiary survives);  annuities (where your named beneficiary survives); pay-on-death (POD) beneficiary bank accounts(where your named beneficiary survives);  transfer on death (TOD) accounts at brokerage houses, covering stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc. (where your named beneficiary survives); community property passing to a surviving spouse; trust assets; and estates of under $150,000 (excluding real property). As you can see, depending upon your particular assets, you may not need a living trust in order to avoid probate.

What should you put in your safe deposit box? Who should have access to your safe deposit box?

What should you put in your bank safe deposit box? Who should have access to your safe deposit box?

 As for contents of the safe deposit box:

 1. All original estate planning documents, including your trust and will and amendments thereto and powers of attorney.

 2. Bonds and stock certificates.

 3. Gold and silver.

 4. Valuable coins and stamps that you don’t want to enjoy at home.

 5. Valuable jewelry that you don’t wear.

 6. Passwords to your computers and to important web pages.

 7. Important contracts.

 8. Marriage certificates, passports, birth certificates, divorce orders, education degrees, citizenship papers.

 9. Title insurance policies and deeds.

 10. Life insurance, disablitity insurance, long term care insurance policies.

 11. Names and addresses of relatives who may not be known to your family, particularly those who might have to be notified upon your death.

 12. Ownership certificates and “pink slips” for your vehicles, boats, planes.

 13. Video and photos of valuable contents of your home.

 14. Other confidential information that would be important to your estate.

 Regarding who should have access to your box, consider having the bank’s safe deposit agreement for your safe deposit box include the name (and signature) of the individuals whom you will empower (or have listed) as your successor trustee of your living trust and as your executor. You keep the key to the box. But you show those individuals where you keep the safe deposit box key in your house in case you became incompetent or died and let them know the location of the safe deposit box.  Let your estate attorney know the location of the box and who will have access to the box (especially if your original will and trust will be in the box).