Probate is the legal process by which a court validates a deceased person’s will and oversees the distribution of their assets to their beneficiaries. At the Slaton Schauer Law Firm, PLLC, we know that this process can be time-consuming and costly in financial terms. Even worse, it puts a deceased person’s family through emotional distress. So what are some methods you can use to avoid these issues?
First, it’s important to understand that probate only applies to assets that are solely in the deceased person’s name and that do not have a designated beneficiary or joint owner. Assets such as joint bank accounts, life insurance policies, and retirement accounts with a named beneficiary will not go through probate and will be distributed directly to the designated beneficiary.
A second way to avoid probate is to use a living trust. A living trust is a legal entity that holds ownership of assets during the grantor’s lifetime and can be transferred to beneficiaries upon their death without the need for probate. The “grantor,” also known as the trustor, can also act as the trustee and retain control of the assets during their lifetime.
A third option is to transfer assets to a payable-on-death account or transfer-on-death registration. These types of accounts and registrations allow the assets to pass directly to a designated beneficiary upon the account holder’s death, bypassing probate.
Finally, gifting assets during one’s lifetime can also help to avoid probate. However, it’s important to keep in mind that there may be gift tax implications.
Even if you don’t opt for a trust, you should consider a will. It will provide guidance to the court and your beneficiaries on how you would like your assets to be distributed if some of your assets do go through probate.
In summary, probate can be a long and costly process, but there are ways to avoid it. Rather than take a big risk with your estate, contact us today to discuss your options and determine the best path forward.