What is Probate and How Can I Avoid it?
One of the primary concerns that our clients face is how to be sure that their property will pass to their loved ones in the event of their death.
There are basically five ways an individual can transfer property to their loved ones upon their death. Depending upon the age of the persons who will be receiving property or the dynamics among family members who are receiving the property, it is important to choose your method of
transfer very carefully.
You can leave property titled solely in your name (i.e. do nothing to plan for your property at your death). If you do this, then your property will go through a process known as probate. This means that a court will order your property to be divided among your surviving relatives according to the probate laws of your state. Basically, the courts, via state statutes, provide who will receive your property if you have done no planning. In essence, the state has written a will for you. It typically says that, at your death, if you have taken no steps to express your testamentary wishes via re-titling your assets, then a certain amount will pass to your spouse, if you have one, and a certain amount to your children. If there are no spouse or children, then more distant relatives will receive your assets. It usually takes about nine months or longer before all of your assets are distributed if they have to go through this type of probate process.
Obviously, most people want to have a greater say in where their assets will go. That's why they can take other estate planning measures such as: establishing a Last Will and Testament; adding a joint owner to their assets; adding a beneficiary to their assets and/or establishing a Revocable Living Trust.