When writing a will, the intention is to give your assets away to your loved ones, not use that hard-earned money for expensive probate fees. While state laws vary, and there’s no complete guarantee, there are ways to help ensure that beneficiaries get most, if not all, of the assets intended, and it’s easier than you might think. To help you understand the process and save you trouble, this article will review what probate is and how to avoid it.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the legal process of proving that the document is valid and is the truest testament of the deceased person’s wishes. When the document is granted probate, it then becomes a legal document that is enforceable. This then helps guide the executors listed on the document as to how the assets should be distributed while taking into account the rights of creditors and other possible third parties with rights to those assets.
Why Would I Want To Avoid Probate?
Just like any other legal process, the probate process costs money, and documents discussed in this legal process are subject to interrogation and become part of public records. Not only is this incredibly violating, but the money that you worked so hard to save will go into paying for legal fees. Additionally, this process can last years. There have been some cases where the assets of a deceased loved one have been almost completely liquidated to pay probate fees. No family should have to deal with this on top of the heartache of losing a loved one.
How Can I Avoid Probate?
As mentioned, probate laws vary between states, so it’s important to become familiar with your local laws. One of the benefits of hiring an estate planning attorney is that they can sift through the legal jargon for you and help you form a more solid and airtight will. Without the right knowledge and preparation, your will, and subsequently your final wishes, become much more vulnerable to probate.
States have different probate estate limits, so if you keep your estate small, it can become exempt from probate or possibly be expedited through the process. You can also establish a revocable living trust, which allows you to spend money while having your assets in the hands of a trustee. They are obligated to distribute the assets, not the courts. All your assets don’t need to be placed in the trust either, you can simply use this method to put some of it in a trust and make your estate smaller.
Additionally, you can make your bank accounts payable upon death, which ensures that the money goes directly to the listed beneficiaries and not through the courts. Just remember to check your state’s laws, as some banks allow you to transfer real estate, making it easier to distribute your assets the way you want them to be distributed.
Now that you have a better idea of what probate is and how to avoid it, it’s best to take the time to sit down and speak with a legal professional. While you may not want to spend money on an attorney now, it’s best to safeguard your estate early so that you have more control over what happens to your assets.