Last week we discussed a few basic benefits and drawbacks of having your estate go through probate, a process that transfers a person's property upon death. Probate can be expensive and time-consuming and it often leaves a decedent with less control over his or her property.
We talked about trusts as a tool that can help you keep your assets out of probate. Setting up a living trust can help you determine where those assets go, setting up successor trustees and instructions for what to do with them. But that isn't your only option if you wish to avoid probate.
Another method for avoiding probate of your property is joint tenancy. Joint tenancy means more than one person owns the property. For example, many spouses have joint tenancy over things like marital assets and their home. The benefit to joint tenancy is that once one owner of the property dies, his or her share of the property is automatically transferred to the other joint tenant without going through probate.
Another option would be to establish a life insurance policy and name beneficiaries that way. Upon death, that property will pass to the named beneficiary without probate.
If you want to control what happens to your estate - including financial assets, real estate property and possessions - after you pass away, the best way is to draft a sound, thorough, enforceable estate plan. Whether you have some documents in place or need to start from scratch, a qualified estate planning attorney can help you get a handle on your situation and craft a plan that meets your needs as well as your family's.
Source: Law and Daily Life, "How to Avoid Probate of Your Estate," Andrew Lu, March 31, 2013
To learn more about the probate process and other estate planning tools, please visit our website.