Many people are under the impression that avoiding probate is a difficult, challenging, and a somewhat impossible task. Does this sound familiar? While it is easy to give in and assume your family will figure everything out once you pass on, this is not the right approach. You are better off making the right decisions today, as they can save your loved ones time and money in the future.
The first thing you need to do is review your estate plan. Do you have any strategies in place for avoiding probate? Have you ignored this in the past? If you have yet to consider this, now is the time to do so. Making a few adjustments here and there may be all your estate plan requires.
Here are some strategies to consider:
- Revocable living trust. A living trust is one of the best ways to avoid probate. The advantage of adding property to a trust is simple: after your death, the trust property is not made part of the probate estate.
Note: it is included for federal estate tax purposes.
Since a trustee, not an individual, owns the property, it is not subject to probate. After you pass on, the trustee can then transfer the property to friends and family, without probate.
All you have to do is specify who you want to inherit the property. From there, you can rest easy knowing that they won’t have to deal with probate.
- Joint ownership of property. There are many forms of joint ownership that avoid probate when the first property owner passes on.
With this, when one owner dies the property simply goes to the joint-owner. There is no probate involved. There is nothing else you need to worry about.
If this sounds intriguing, you should look into the following options:
- Joint tenancy with right of survivorship.
- Tenancy by the entirety.
- Community property with right of survivorship.
For example, joint tenancy with right of survivorship is among the most common choices. Any property owned in joint tenancy will automatically pass to the surviving owner when the first owner dies, all without probate.
- Gifts. Have you ever considered the benefits of giving away property while you are still alive? This may not be something you have thought about, as many people would rather go the traditional route of leaving everything behind once they pass on. Even so, don’t overlook the benefit of giving gifts while you are alive.
Think about it this way: if you don’t own something when you pass away, it cannot go through probate. Easy enough, right? If nothing else, you are able to lower the value of your estate. This way, if probate does happen, it does not cost as much.
Tip: make sure you know how much you can gift somebody without them being subject to the federal gift tax.
Meet with an Estate Planning and Probate Attorney
You have to review your estate plan before you can decide if everything is in order. You may find that you have already implemented a few strategies that will allow your loved ones to avoid probate. You may also find that there are other things you can do, such as one of the options detailed above.
An estate planning attorney can review your current estate plan, discuss your options, and help you make the best decisions for you and your family.
The thought of probate is never fun. In fact, it can be downright depressing. This is why you need to understand all your options, inside and out.
Are you interested in learning more about estate planning? How about probate in particular? Do you need help with anything else? If so, don’t hesitate to speak with a professional. An experienced and knowledgeable attorney can point you in the right direction, ensuring that you never make another mistake.
If you have the time in your schedule, don’t hesitate to sign up for one of our many seminars. We are here to share our knowledge on a variety of subjects, while also answering your questions. Even if you don’t think a seminar can help, you may be surprised at what you learn. Remember, one nugget of information could save you a lot of stress in the future.
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