Estate planning is the process of ordering your affairs in anticipation of your death.  Planning for the distribution of your property after death is wise.  

Keeping Real Property Out of Probate

Several options exist for conveying real property to your loved ones after your death without going through probate court.

Titling Property:  If you want your loved ones to have immediate ownership of your real property upon your death, consider including them in some way on the title to your property.Certain forms of property ownership come with a right of survivorship.  For example, community property and joint property ownership both automatically give real property to the other owners in the event of your death.  A life estate also enables property to convey to another automatically upon your death.

Trusts:  Lliving trusts ensure your property is distributed according to your wishes after your death.  In a living trust, you would assign someone the responsibility of distributing your property at your death.  This someone, known as a trustee, can be a person or a business.  During your life time, you would put your real property into the trust for distribution according to your wishes after death.  Trusts do not have to go through the probate process, so trust property gets distributed in a timely fashion after your death.

Probate – The Basics

Probate is a process conducted by a state court to distribute your property after your death.  Certain types of property avoid the probate process and get distributed directly to heirs, such as life insurance policies, certain bank accounts, gifts, trusts, and certain kinds of joint property ownership.  All other property must pass probate to get to your loved ones.  Many people plan their estates to avoid probate.  While probate ensures that your property is distributed fairly among your loved ones, it is a costly and lengthy process that can delay your gifts to your family and friends.

Real Property in Probate

Wills:Wills speak for you after your death.  In a will, you can outline your wishes for the disposition of your real property so that no misunderstandings arise after your death.  Wills have certain creation, signature, and witnessing requirements to be valid.  Wills must go through probate to ensure validity after which the property in the will is distributed according to your wishes.  If your loved ones dispute the distribution of your real property, probate provides forum to address the dispute.

Intestate Distribution:  If you die without a will, the probate court will distribute your real property for you.  This may even be preferred if you know your loved ones my squabble over your property after your death.  The probate court will distribute your real property based on California laws of intestate distribution – laws that distribute your property based on a hierarchical family formula.


Property disputes with neighbors can be sources of great tension.  Some common disputes with neighbors, such as roving animals, trespassing, and boundary disputes, can be worked out easily by just talking and coming up with workable solutions.  If talking doesn’t work, mediation is always an option.  

Roving Animals

A common dispute between neighbors arises from pets roaming onto a neighbor’s property.  In this case, be sure you know the leash laws and other animal laws that apply to your local area.  If your pet is the one roaming, put it on a leash if the law so orders.  If a neighbor’s pet is roaming on your property, talk to the neighbor and inform them of the leash law that applies to your local area.  If you live in an area with a homeowner’s association (HOA), they may already have rules about pets that apply to the neighborhood.  In this instance, consult the HOA for help in dealing with a neighbor’s roaming pets.


Another common dispute between neighbors is that one neighbor crosses another neighbor’s property to get to a fishing hole or some other location.  To address this issue, you could talk to the neighbor and ask them not to cross your property.  Or, you could give them a license or easement to use your property at a cost.  A license is temporary permission to use  your property in a specific way.  An easement is permanent permission to use your property in a certain way.  Some easements stay attached to the land regardless of the landowner.  Riverside and Corona attorney, the McAndrew Law Firm, can assist you in creating a license or easement for aneighbor who regularly trespasses on your land.

Property Line Disputes

Often neighbors will dispute where the boundary to their property ends and begins.  Some property owners may place a fence, shrubbery, or other indicator of separation on their boundary line to mark the extent of their property.  Disputes arise when this boundary exceeds the actual boundary line by some measure.  In some instances, if a property owner has exceeded his or her property line with some form of physical boundary, such as a fence or shrubbery, they may take that excess of land from the neighboring owner by adverse possession.  Such a dispute can get complicated and is best undertaken with the help of the Riverside and Corona attorney, the McAndrew Law Firm.