Probate 101: What Is Probate and How Can I Avoid It?
There is no avoiding the grief and pain that comes with the passing of a loved one. However, one thing that is in your control now is the amount of stress, hassle, and paperwork that may accompany your passing or the passing of a family member. When a person in the United States dies, that person’s wealth and assets must be passed on to the appropriate beneficiaries.
A legal process in which this is done by a district court is called probate. So, what is probate? Probate involves executing a deceased person’s last will and testament and appointing an executor. It is a process that, depending on certain factors, can take years and cost tens of thousands of dollars.
If the deceased person does not have a will, the process will always be longer, more difficult, and more expensive. With that in mind, here are some steps you can take to simplify probate, or even avoid it altogether.
- Making Probate More Manageable
While it is possible to completely avoid your estate falling into probate after your death, it is the most likely scenario. However, there are steps you can take to mitigate probate and make the whole thing run more smoothly. Chief among these is creating a will and having it legally notarized.
Without a will, the process of executing your estate will fall into the hands of lawyers and potentially warring family members. It will drag on for a long time and cost a lot of money, much of which may be taken from your estate to cover legal costs. Equally important is to hire a probate attorney immediately.
If you need a probate lawyer, you should not hesitate to choose an experienced one who can move things along quickly. The best probate lawyer will have your interests at heart.
- Ways to Avoid Probate
There are some established ways to side-step the probate process altogether. These are:
Establish Joint Ownership
When you are alive, you can establish joint ownership over your estate with another person, who will automatically receive all of the rights to that estate upon your passing. There are local and state laws governing who you can confer joint ownership upon. Usually, this can be a spouse or a direct family member.
Give Away All Property and Assets
This may sound extreme, but this is a common way for people to avoid probate. Before your passing, you can simply transfer all of your wealth, assets, and property to other people. There will likely be gift taxes involved in this process, but these can often be less costly than the probate process.
Set Up a Living Trust
If you are wondering how to avoid probate, a living trust is probably the most straightforward option. You can set up a revocable living trust (meaning you can revoke it at any time). This will involve you transferring all of your estate into a trust, for which you will be the chief trustee. You can then appoint a successor trustee who will immediately receive the trust upon your passing.
Essential Estate Planning Advice for You
Whether you are seeking to avoid probate or simply prepare your estate for your passing or the passing of a loved one, we are here to help. You can consult our extensive Family Law section to learn more about the estate planning laws and options available to you.