You might have heard the term “probate” and not be entirely sure what it means for you and your estate plans. Probate is the legal process for transferring assets upon the death of someone. Since probate proceedings are considered public record, some of the details are available to others. However, there are methods by which you can avoid the probate process and save your loved ones from cost and time associated with a probate.
Establish Joint Ownership—Under this provision, any property that was jointly owned by you and someone else, with the right of survivorship, will simply pass to the surviving owner upon your death. Joint ownership with survivorship falls under two categories:
It’s important to note that other property can be jointly owned, including vehicles and financial accounts.
Create Trusts—Trusts are a popular choice, particularly in the case of larger estates or when many beneficiaries are involved. Most people create a revocable living trust which empowers you to revoke or amend the trust at any time.
Once you have created a trust, property ownership is transferred from you personally to the trust. You may serve as the trustee so that you have full control over what happens to property while you’re still alive. When you pass, the person you named as successor trustee oversees distribution to the named beneficiaries.
Be Strategic With Asset Distribution—You can also establish pay-on-death or transfer-on-death accounts and securities to avoid probate costs. For example, financial ac-counts (including IRAs) are typically eligible for beneficiary designation. That means once you pass away (but not before), these accounts are transferred to your chosen individual.
Similarly, transfer-on-death is available for non-financial accounts. This is when the title to property is transferred to a designated person when you die, and entails everything from real estate, securities, and more.
Secure Dependable Legal Representation—These are only a few of the ways to avoid the probate process. It’s always a good idea to draft a comprehensive will and/or trust. In addition to a will and trust, you should have other estate planning documents that protect you while you are still living.
Contact us today to begin a discussion on how you can avoid or reduce the costs of probate. Call Wendy A. Mara of Mara Law, P.A. at 386.672. 8081. We offer consultations in our offices in Ormond Beach and Palm Coast.