Personal injury lawyers that deal with wrongful death cases often see the devastating effects the unplanned loss of a loved one has — both emotionally and legally. That is why it is recommended that families learn more about the probate process because the proper steps and actions can save your estate, your family, and other loved ones significant time and money. However, not having the right real estate plan in place means your beneficiaries and loved ones have to suffer from the extensive and complicated process known as probate. Therefore, while preparing essential documents like your last will and living testament, you should also take the necessary steps to avoid the probate process which we’ll explore in more depth with the help of our friends at Theus Law Offices.
Why Should You Avoid the Probate Process?
Before getting into specific strategies, let’s first explore why you should avoid the probate process. The probate process can often drag out to months or even years, resulting in further delays of your assets reaching your loved ones. While the probate process is happening, the assets your loved ones will receive often start diminishing to pay for the entire process. Now, let’s look at some strategies you can use to avoid this process.
- Designating Beneficiaries
Having specific beneficiaries receive assets like retirement and life insurance accounts, 401K, and other related documents mean these assets can go directly to the parties you designated. This process means these assets generally won’t go through the probate process.
- Create a Living Trust
In a living trust, the grantor (the person writing the trust) will fund it by putting their chosen assets into it. As a grantor, you retain control over these assets until your death or incapacitation. Then, your trust is turned over to whoever is appointed as the successor trustee. This trustee will then distribute these assets to the respective parties according to the granter’s wishes. This strategy can help your loved ones avoid or minimize the probate process.
- Give Away Property or Assets While You’re Alive
To avoid or make the probate process easier, sometimes people decide to distribute assets like certain properties while they’re still alive. This isn’t the best solution for every property owner, but doing so means the property or assets won’t be part of your estate after you pass away. However, some situations mean you’ll have to pay a gift tax which can be expensive, depending upon the situation.
- Have Pay-on-death and Transfer-on-death Accounts
Certain states allow you to appoint a beneficiary for any bank account. This process is known as pay-on-death” or POD accounts. You may also be able to appoint an heir to handle your investment account by using a “transfer-on-death” or TOD account.
- Having Property Joint Ownership
When you jointly own property with another person, your property rights automatically entirely pass over to the other party after you pass away. You can choose one of three main methods for doing so, such as:
- If you live in a state with community laws, then your spouse can hold property jointly and will have survivorship following your passing away.
- Owners can also be joint tenants of a property, and following one tenant’s passing away, the other tenant will receive full survivorship rights.
- Tenancy by the entirety is also another option for married spouses that works very similarly to joint tenancy.
These are five potential ways to avoid needing to call a probate lawyer with proper planning.