When someone passes away, loved ones are likely to contend with probate court. It can be a dreaded process, mostly because when complications arise, probate can become time consuming and costly. This is why so many people developing an estate plan want to know if avoiding probate is a possibility. Fortunately, there are specific strategies that can help you to protect some of your assets from probate. Putting together an estate plan can be a complicated process. An estate-planning attorney will have the experience and insight to strategize ways to protect as much as possible from probate.
Probate Can Be Expensive
Talk of probate often creates a number of worries for people. In most cases, people are unclear the reasons probate is something to avoid it at all costs. It boils down to a couple to a few things:
- You will have to pay court and attorney’s fees
- It can be time consuming
It’s anxiety provoking to think that probate can take years before an estate is settled. Working with an attorney will be important in making sure that probate goes as smoothly as possible for beneficiaries by:
- Reviewing your assets and ensuring that there is nothing that could tie up probate. In some cases, you may have assets in your will that are difficult to put a value to.
- Helping you to identify an executor that is trusting and responsible. You will want someone who is able to commit the time to disbursing your estate efficiently. By missing deadlines or not taking action, an executor can cause unnecessary delays in the probate process.
- Identify an executor who can help keep peace within the family. Contentious family situations can cause the process to take longer.
Strategies that Save
Fortunately, there are measures that estate-planning attorneys can guide you through to mitigate the number of assets that must pass through probate. Not only does this speed up the probate process, it can also maximize the inheritance that heirs receive. There are a number of items that are not required to pass through probate, including:
- Jointly Held Property
- Bank Accounts
- Jointly Owned Assets
- Retirement Accounts
- Life Insurance Policies
- Trust Accounts
Taking the time to strategize with an attorney can save your heirs a lot of headaches in the long run. Here are some ways that you could potentially avoid other assets going through probate and ultimately save money in the long run:
- Make sure that your estate has a clearly written estate plan with an identified executor who is up for the job.
- Identify beneficiaries on any accounts that are payable on death or transfer on death.
- Gift money to heirs while you are still living. Gifts that are under $14,000 are not taxable by the IRS.
- Put your assets into a trust. This is a big way of avoiding probate. Upon death, your assets will be distributed into a trust account(s) for your beneficiaries. You will assign a trustee to oversee this process. By doing so, you have already distributed your assets which allows you to bypass probate.
- Joint Tenancy is property that is owned by two people. When one person dies, ownership can pass directly to the other owner without enduring probate.
Ensure that the distribution of your estate is not a long drawn out process for loved ones. With the experience of probate lawyers State College, PA residents trust, you can rest assured that your estate plan will be clear and well thought out.
Thank you to our friends and contributors at De Boef Lucchesi, P.C. for their insight into probate law.