Avoiding probate can save your loved ones time, money, and stress. Here are the top three tips to help ensure your estate bypasses the probate process:

1. Create a Living Trust

A living trust is one of the most effective ways to avoid probate. By transferring your assets into a living trust, you maintain control over them during your lifetime. Upon your death, the assets are transferred directly to your beneficiaries according to the terms of the trust, without the need for probate. This can provide privacy, as trusts are not public record, and it allows for a quicker distribution of assets.

2. Designate Beneficiaries

For certain assets, you can name beneficiaries directly, which allows these assets to pass directly to them upon your death, avoiding probate. Common assets that allow for beneficiary designations include:

  • Life insurance policies
  • Retirement accounts (such as IRAs and 401(k)s)
  • Payable-on-death (POD) bank accounts
  • Transfer-on-death (TOD) securities

Make sure to regularly review and update your beneficiary designations to ensure they reflect your current wishes.

3. Joint Ownership

Owning property jointly with rights of survivorship is another way to avoid probate. When one owner dies, the property automatically passes to the surviving owner(s) without going through probate. There are several forms of joint ownership, including:

  • Joint tenancy with right of survivorship (JTWROS): Each owner has an equal share, and upon death, the deceased’s share passes to the surviving owner(s).
  • Tenancy by the entirety: Similar to JTWROS, but available only to married couples.
  • Community property with right of survivorship: Available in certain states, allows property acquired during marriage to pass directly to the surviving spouse.

Be sure to understand the implications and legalities of joint ownership in your state before setting up these arrangements.

By implementing these strategies, you can help your loved ones avoid the lengthy and costly probate process, ensuring a smoother transition of your assets. Consulting with an estate planning attorney can provide personalized guidance and help you make the best choices for your specific situation.

Ready to speak with us about your plans? Contact us here for an appointment.