It’s seen time and time again – a family estate and assets end up in probate because some fairly simple steps weren’t taken to establish a succession of ownership in the event of a loved one’s death. Probate is easily avoidable as long as a few steps are taken to set up the right vehicle to help pass along ownership lawfully and clearly.
Remember, probate ends up being necessary as deceased individuals can’t own property. An easy way to think about this is preparing formal documentation of ownership should the previous owner pass. The following are a few things you can do to prepare now and avoid the expense and probate time later.
Making the Most of Joint Ownership
Adding a joint owner to existing bank & investment accounts and real estate deeds can avoid probate as long as the account is co-owned with rights of survivorship. If the joint tenants meet certain requirements, these assets can be easily transferred to the other owner and offer an easy transition.
Build a Revocable Living Trust
This type of trust covers three situations:
- While you’re alive and sound
- Mental incapacitation
What must be done following the creation of a revocable living trust agreement is titling all significant assets in the name of the trust. The assets would then avoid probate after the living trust becomes the record owner of the assets instead of you. This method protects the assets while funding a mechanism that can be passed along to other loved ones as long as it’s set up correctly.
Naming Beneficiaries on Bank and Retirement Accounts
Perhaps the easiest thing that can be done is to name beneficiaries on accounts that allow. This is typically done through paper forms from your bank or brokerage, although many are transitioning to digital signatures due to the pandemic. If you are married and wish to include your spouse, you may need him or her to sign additional paperwork.
Another great way to avoid probate is to enlist the help of a qualified estate planning attorney to help guide and advise as you think about how you want to pass along your most valued assets. Richard P. Arthur, Attorney at Law has more than 25 years of legal experience helping clients on a variety of matters, including estate planning. Call 937-254-3738 today to learn more.