When individuals die without having an adequate estate plan in place, their estates will proceed through the probate process. Probate has the disadvantage of sometimes lasting for a long period of time. Fortunately, there are some methods that individuals can use to avoid the probate process. A skilled attorney will be able to help an individual determine the various methods necessary to avoid the probate process.
Designate Beneficiaries in Retirement Accounts
There are some assets that a person has that will pass on after his or her death in accordance with terms other than those found in a will. Many other estate planning devices allow individuals to name beneficiaries, including retirement accounts. Despite the power of these documents, many individuals do not list beneficiaries for bank accounts or retirement plans. By making sure to designate beneficiaries for retirement accounts, individuals can make sure that these assets avoid the probate process. The biggest obstacle presented by this method is making sure that the proper beneficiaries are listed because these roles may sometimes change due to death, divorce, or other major life events.
Gifting Avoids the Probate Process
By giving away property prior to death, a person can avoid the probate process. Additionally, individuals can also avoid the substantial tax that would also be placed on their assets if transferred after the person’s death. In many cases, there are limits on the amount and type of gifts that a person can give before being required to pay taxes on them. One of the greatest difficulties in gifting is making sure that a person maintains enough assets to preserve his or her own living conditions until death.
Use Joint Tenancy to Protect Property
Joint tenancy is one way in which a couple can own property. In these situations, the surviving individual automatically inherits the deceased individual’s property without the property passing through probate. While joint tenancy occurs automatically if a couple is married, individuals can also elect to jointly own property without being married. Make sure to clearly distinguish that joint tenancy exists if a couple is not married. The difficulty is joint tenancy is making sure that there are not any changes to the terms of property ownership that would alter this language.
Write a Living Trust
One of the most common ways in which individuals can avoid probate is through the use of living trusts. A living trust is just one alternative to a will and allows individuals to avoid the probate process because distribution into the trust has already occurred. Instead of being divided at the point of a person’s death, individuals place assets into the trusts beforehand. Then, at the time of the individual’s death, the assets in the trusts are exempt from the probate process. One of the obstacles presented by this method is making sure that the trust is properly constructed, which frequently requires the assistance of a skilled estate planning attorney.
Reasons to Speak with a Knowledgeable Probate Lawyer
One of the main advantages of the probate process is that it allows individuals to avoid significant costs. To make sure that you successfully navigate the probate process, obtain the assistance of skilled legal counsel. Contact Attorney Jim A Lyon today.