Maybe you have a loved on who relies on your financial support. Maybe you simply want to prevent as much stress and logistical difficulties for your family as possible after your death. Either way, structuring your estate so that it will avoid probate is an important part of estate planning. Probate can be long, complicated, and stressful, and it delays the point when your heirs gain access to your estate. Understandably, many people want to avoid probate.
What Is Probate?
Writing a will is a good start to the estate plan process, but if you’re hoping to spare your loved ones the time, stress, and expense of probate, it’s not enough. Probate is the legal process in which a court evaluates your estate and transfers your assets to their new owners after your death. If you have a will, the process starts with the person you named as your executor filing your will with the probate court. Since you already specified what your wishes were, the court should simply be carrying out those wishes. Still, the process can be long. At worst, this can delay the transfer of assets to a loved one who relies on your financial support. At best, it adds an additional responsibility to your loved ones who are already dealing with a difficult loss. This is why its really important to have a reliable probate attorney on your side.
Other factors can complicate the probate process. If you don’t do any estate planning and die without a will, the court will determine how your estate is distributed and to whom. If you own multiple properties, your heirs may need to go through probate in multiple places. This is because probate usually takes place in the county that you lived in, except for real estate. Real estate assets usually go through probate in the county where they’re located.
How to Avoid Probate
Creating a revocable living trust is a reliable way to avoid probate while maintaining control of your assets. You’ll begin by creating the trust and naming a trustee. Depending on your preferences, the trustee can be a loved one, yourself, your bank, or a professional trust company. Then, you’ll move your assets into the trust. Once this happens, you don’t own the assets anymore, but you still control them. You’ll also designate beneficiaries for the assets within the trust. Because this is a revocable trust, you can change it anytime. This gives you the flexibility to adapt to changes in your relationships and preferences and to family changes like the birth of new children or grandchildren. You can also use the trust to separate individual and shared assets within a marriage. Speak with an experienced revocable living trust lawyer today and set up your trust.
In some circumstances, you might also want to consider an irrevocable trust. As the name indicates, these trusts can’t be changed after they’re set up. You also cannot make yourself the trustee of an irrevocable trust, so you’ll lose control of these assets. However, irrevocable trusts can be a better way to avoid estate taxes and to protect your assets from lawsuits. If you have a large enough estate that taxes are a major concern, or you work in a profession that has a high risk of lawsuits, an irrevocable trust could be a good choice.
Depending on what exactly you own, you might also have other options for avoiding probate. Some assets, like retirement savings accounts and life insurance policies, ask you to designate a beneficiary. After your death, these accounts can be transferred directly to that beneficiary without going through probate.
Partner With an Estate Lawyer
While it’s theoretically possible to set up a living revocable trust on your own, working with an estate lawyer is a much better idea. Within the broader categories of revocable and irrevocable trusts, there are multiple specific types of trusts to choose from. You’ll benefit from having an expert look at your estate overall and help you determine what the best structures are for your individual situation. Also, you’ll probably want to have a will in addition to your trust to cover any assets that weren’t included in the trust.
Estate planning is complicated, and the stakes are high. You want the money, real estate and other assets you’ve worked hard for throughout your life to go the people you care about quickly and efficiently when you’re gone. An estate lawyer will help you create the best structure for your specific needs. Contact one to discuss your trust options now.
What is probate?
Probate is the court-directed process of analyzing and distributing a deceased person’s estate.
How can I avoid probate?
There are several ways to avoid probate, including creating a trust and putting certain assets in accounts with a designated beneficiary.
What are the benefits of a revocable trust?
A revocable trust lets your assets avoid probate after your death while letting you keep control of those assets during your lifetime.