If I have joint custody of a parent’s bank account i.e. I am a co-signer on the account and there are no other assets involved, is there any need for my parent to have a Will?

If not, is it better to get rid of an existing will to avoid probate costs? In other words, is the will going to legally require me to go through probate whether I want to or not or can I simply ignore probate because I am already signed on to the bank account?

Thank you!

Asked on August 25, 2015 under Estate Planning, California

Answers:

M.H., Member, California Bar / M.H., Member, California Bar

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

You need to ascertain the exact form of ownership to your parents bank account.  Are you a mere co-signer or are you a joint account holder?  Generally speaking, a joint banking account is a non-probate transfer, i.e., this asset will not have to go through probate.  Joint accounts and pay on death accounts are very popular probate avoidance vehicles in California.
In California, a custodian a person in possession of an original will must lodge the will within 30 days of the decedent's death.  The lodging fee is around $50.  
 
To answer your question, whether probate is appropriate or not depends on the size of the probate estate.  If the probate estate does not exceed $150,000, then an heir of the decedent can execute a Cal Probate Code 13100 affidavit to avoid a formal probate.  Assets exceeding $150,000 and assets not excluded under Cal Proba 13100 will have to go through formal probate.
However, a will does not address one very important topic  what if your parents become incapacitated?  A will does not help because it's only valid at death, not incapacity.  Many people with wills have to be conserved in a conservatorship proceeding.   Conservatorships can be very expensive.
 
I hope this answered your questions. 
 
 
 


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