How to Avoid Probate

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

As you have now realized the probate process is lengthy, costly and can be a frustrating for your heirs. We have looked at what goes into decided if your estate is large enough to go into probate or not. But rest assured if your estate exceeds the $100,000 umbrella in California then there are still options to keep your estate out of probate. All of which a trained estate lawyer can create for you.

The first option is to create living trusts. All assets that have been transferred to a living trust will avoid probate. Essentially a living trust is a document created that names the creator of the trust as the trustor. Usually a person, bank or trust company is named as the trustee in the event of the death of the trustor. A trust can provide similar provisions as those found in a will for guidelines to distribute an estate after death. Provisions can also be made in the trust that can reduce or eliminate federal estate taxes. After the trust is signed, all assets should be transferred to the trust so that they are no longer considered part of the individual’s estate.

Creating joint tenancy of important or expensive assets is another way to avoid entering into probate. Joint tenancy is simply a legal term that means an asset is owned by two or more people. When one of the joint tenants passes away, the asset will be transferred to full ownership of the other joint tenant or tenants. This overrides any provisions in the will or trust of the deceased tenant, which is something to take note of when creating a will. A properly trained estate lawyer can help to eliminate any confusion when creating such a plan.

As we already discussed if an estate is under $1,000,000 in the state of California it will most likely avoid probate, which is simple if the estate is small to start with. And if the estate is larger, it is still fairly easy to keep out of probate court with a proper estate plan that utilizes legal means to create trusts and joint tenancy accounts.

The final way to keep an estate out of probate is if there is a surviving spouse. In that case and estate can almost be assured to stay out of probate court by filing a spousal property petition. A spousal property petition changes the title on the assets to be in the name of the surviving spouse. In essence this is a simplified, less costly, quicker version of probate.

Going to probate court does not have to be a part of the death process, no matter how large the estate. By working with a proper estate lawyer and utilizing the legal system any estate can avoid the lengthy and expensive process of probate. A little time and money spent now can save large amounts for you loved ones later. Simply put the benefits of planning ahead are many and you loved ones will thank you.

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