Is Probate always Required?

Apr 24, 2014

One of the most commonly asked questions during the estate planning process is “is probate always required?” Unfortunately, there is no yes or no answer to this question. It is based on a variety of factors, including where you live at the time of your death, the laws in other states where you own property, and the documents you have in place.

Here are five of the most common reasons why an estate will need to go through probate:

  • The decedent did not have a list will
  • Assets that are owned in the decedent’s sole name
  • Assets owned as a tenant in common
  • No designated beneficiaries

Note: even if the deceased individual has a valid last will at the time of their death, there are situations in which assets will need to go through probate.

How to Avoid Probate

There are steps you can take to protect your estate from probate. By putting the proper estate plan in place upfront, you can protect against this in the future.

Here are several things you can do to avoid probate:

1. Create a revocable living trust. This works in your favor while you are alive and in good health, if you become incapacitated, and after you die.

2. Take advantage of beneficiary designations. You must designate beneficiaries for retirement accounts, annuities, and bank accounts (if permitted in your state).

3. Joint ownership with rights of survivorship. By adding a joint owner to a bank account or to a real estate deed, probate can be avoided.

4. Sell off your property. This may sound extreme, but it will ensure that your property does not go through probate. While it is typically impossible to give everything away, since you need money to live, you can use a particular type of trust to give some assets to others.

Are you worried that your heirs will be faced with the probate process upon your death? Rather than stress about this, contact us to discuss the options for avoiding probate.

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