What is probate?
Simply put, probate is a Court set up to handle the administration of a deceased person’s affairs. The family of the deceased will probably need to hire legal representation, and the entire process could take up to a year, or more. It’s a situation that most would like to avoid.
Fortunately, with effective estate planning, you can use several strategies to avoid long probate scenarios, and your family can avoid the headaches and pain.
The Living Trust
If you have a larger estate, you can avoid a long and expensive probate process by using a technique of asset transfer called a Living Trust.
A document called a “trust document”, which is similar to a Will, is created which names a person who will control the trust.
You will then create a document transferring property to yourself, thus becoming the Trustee. As Trustee, you will still have full control of the property and assets while you are alive. After you pass away, the person controlling the trust (Successor Trustee) can access the property without needing probate court approval.
You may have accounts, such as savings accounts and CDs, that allow you designate someone to be the recipient upon your death (Payable on Death – POD). You will still have complete control of your money until you die, then the beneficiary will have access to the remainder.
If you have life insurance or retirement accounts, you will have probably already named a beneficiary when you filled out the initial paperwork. They will also gain access to those accounts upon your death without having to go through probate.
Joint Owned Property
Do you co-own property with another person? If ownership includes right of survivorship, then that person should be able to succeed ownership of your share of the property.
Probate is a process which can be confusing, and the lengthy, drawn-out process is one that most would like to avoid. With the assistance of an experienced estate planner, you can plan your estate in a way which will create a smooth transition for your family.