Probate is the court process for transferring your property to your heirs after you pass away, including making sure all of your debts are paid. Depending on the type of assets, the value of the assets, whether or not you had a Last Will and Testament executed, amongst other things, the probate process can be lengthy and pricey. However, there are several ways you can avoid probate.
A Revocable Living Trust is a legal document that contains instructions on how to distribute your property when you pass away. The property transferred into the trust will not need be probated. The Trustee (manager of the trust's assets) will be responsible for making the distributions to your beneficiaries, according to the instructions of the trust.
Jointly Owned Assets are assets that transfer automatically to the named-survivor. For example, if you and your spouse own a home together that is deeded in both of your names, the property passes complete ownership to the surviving spouse.
Property bearing beneficiary designations will not be apart of probate because once you pass away, the property is transferred to the beneficiary named. For example, if you have life insurance policy with named-beneficiaries, upon your passing the insurance policy is paid directly to the those listed as beneficiaries, so it does not become part of your probate estate.
Unfortunately, and contrary to popular belief, a Last Will and Testament does not avoid probate. Furthermore, a Will only becomes effective once you pass away, which means it must be entered into probate in order for it to be validated by the court, and only then does it become effective. Although, a Will does not avoid probate, it is still an important document to have executed amongst the other important estate planning documents.
Please keep in mind that the information provided is not intended to be taken as legal advice. If you are interested in learning more, please give me a call or send me an email. Thanks!