On behalf of Sayer Regan & Thayer of Sayer Regan & Thayer, LLP posted on Thursday, August 25, 2022.

No one wants to think about their own death, much less plan for it. But being prepared now with the proper documents in place can save your heirs a lot of time, stress, worry, and money. After all, you want your hard-earned cash and property to go to your loved ones as quickly as possible after you pass on.

Failing to plan now can delay the process, withholding cash and property that would otherwise go to your loved ones. They may be able to obtain it later, but only after court and legal fees have taken their chunk.

Avoiding probate will save you time and energy so that your family can grieve properly and in peace. Letting a lawyer skilled in probate, trust and estate administration handle everything now can give you peace of mind.

Without proper estate planning, the probate process ends up being long and expensive for your heirs. Preparing your end-of-life documents now, such as your will, living will, and advanced directive, is the best way to avoid probate later.

What is Probate?

First off, what is probate? Quite simply, this is the legal, court-supervised process that occurs when someone dies. You may have to:

• Prove to the court that the deceased person’s will is still valid
• Inventory and identify the deceased person’s property
• Get the property professionally appraised
• Pay debts and taxes
• Distribute the remaining property, as directed within the will

The probate process is a long and involved one that comprises a lot of complicated paperwork and court appearances. Lawyer and court fees are usually paid out of the estate property, which should otherwise be awarded to those who inherited the deceased person’s property.

To avoid this whole process, make sure you make it easy on your heirs and get your affairs in order.

Why Should You Avoid Probate?

It can be very expensive and time consuming for your remaining family members to gather assets and pay off debts when you die. This will delay distributions of your property to them, leading to a long, drawn-out probate process lasting months or even years. This process can take money away from the amount you ideally wanted to go to your heirs, especially when having to pay a probate attorney.

This is why it’s best to avoid probate and make sure your assets pass right to your heirs without having to go through probate court.

Here are some ways you can avoid probate.

1. Joint Ownership of Property

Jointly-held property with the right of survivorship will pass directly to the still-living joint owner. There are three main ways you can hold property jointly with someone else:

• Joint tenancy with a right of survivorship: This means the owners are “joint tenants” of the property, with the survivor assuming full ownership when the other owner dies.
• Tenancy by the entirety: Similar to joint tenancy, this type of ownership is only for married couples.
• Community property: Spouses may hold property jointly and have the right to survivorship.

2. Beneficiary Designations

Life insurance and retirement accounts feature designated beneficiaries, with funds passing directly to the beneficiaries without the need to go through probate.

3. Pay-on-Death and Transfer-on-Death Accounts

You may be able to designate a beneficiary for a bank account, in essence a “pay-on-death” (POD) account, or you could designate a beneficiary for an investment account with something called a “transfer-on-death” (TOD) account.

4. Revocable Living Trust

Creating a living trust is the most common way to avoid the probate process. This is when the grantor funds the trust with assets of their choosing. They continue to control the trust until they die or become incapacitated, at which time the trust is then controlled by the successor trustee. This person, chosen by the deceased person before death, will distribute the property as the grantor wanted.

5. Giving Away of Property

When passing ownership of your asset or assets to someone else while you are still alive, said property will not be a part of your estate when you pass, and as such would not be a part of the probate process. As you can see, there are quite a few ways to avoid probate. However, each one of these suggestions should be overseen by an attorney well-versed in estate planning, probate, and trust administration to ensure it’s done right.

Contact Sayer Regan & Thayer for Estate Planning

For your no-obligation consultation on estate planning to avoid probate, contact us today. Our attorneys are skilled in probate, trust and estate administration, taking care of all the details so you can protect what’s rightfully yours.

These materials have been prepared by SRT for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.