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By: Scott Grossman on October 19th, 2016

What Property Must Go Through Probate in San Diego?

People often are confused about what San Diego property must go through probate. Actually, figuring out whether the property needs to pass through probate is a simple process.

First of all, what is probate?  To transfer property, you need the signature of the owner of that property. After the person has died, of course, it is impossible to get their signature, so the probate process is a way to substitute for having them sign.  Probate is a way to get a court order allowing the property to be transferred.

What types of property go through probate?  Probably the most common kind and the one everyone is most familiar with is real estate, such as the residence of the person who has died.  But, other types of property, such as bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and even some IRAs and retirement accounts, can go through probate too.

How do you Know What Goes Through Probate?

To figure out if you are dealing with a property that must pass through probate, look at the title.  Is there a deed, or an account name?  If that title is ONLY in the name of the person who has died, then that property must pass through probate.

If the title was held jointly with another person, then that joint tenant will now be the sole owner. No probate is necessary.

So say John’s mother died, and she owned her house.  The deed listed her as the sole owner.  The house must now pass through probate in order to have a probate court order the transfer of property.  The same would be true for John’s mom’s brokerage account held solely in her name.

When John’s friend Steve’s mom dies, her house is held in joint tenancy with Steve’s stepdad.  Steve’s stepdad now becomes the sole owner, without any probate required.

Finally, and very importantly, is there a designated beneficiary on the property?  Does the title of the account name a person to become the owner after death?  If so, then that property transfers with no probate required.

So say John’s mom had a brokerage account with John as the designated beneficiary, and she had a checking account with his sister Allison as the designated beneficiary.  John would automatically get the brokerage account and Allison would automatically get the checking account, no probate required.