There are two substantial deterrents with the probate process:
- Property is not available for a long time, and
- It is expensive
Most of what happens during the probate process is clerical. In the vast majority of cases there is no conflict or contesting party, however it is still an expensive and time consuming process. A probate attorney prepares and submits several forms complying with filing deadlines. The attorney’s fees are paid from the estate. The executor is entitled to a fee as well, though may waive the fee. There are other probate costs also such as court costs and appraiser’s fees.
The good news is that there are many ways to avoid probate. Some to consider are:
- Revocable Living Trust
The advantage of holding your valuable property in trust is that after your death, the trust property is not part of your probate estate. That is because a trustee owns the trust property. After your death, the trustee can easily and quickly transfer the trust property to family or friends without probate. You specify in a trust document who you want to inherit the property.
- Pay-on-Death Accounts and Registrations
You can convert your bank accounts and retirement accounts to payable-on-death accounts. When you die, the money goes directly to your beneficiary without going through probate.
- Joint Ownership of Property
Several forms of joint ownership provide a simple and easy way to avoid probate when the first owner dies. To take title with someone else to avoid probate, you state on the ownership document how you want to hold title. When one of the owners dies, the property goes to the other joint-owner.
Giving away property while you’re alive helps you avoid probate for a very simple reason; if you don’t own it when you die, it doesn’t have to go through probate.
If you would like to have assistance in determining the best way to avoid probate, consult with an experienced estate planning or elder law attorney.