Probate can be a lengthy and expensive legal process for distributing assets to beneficiaries after a person’s death. In addition to the cost and time involved, probate records are public, which compromises privacy. However, there are several estate planning techniques that can help streamline the asset transfer process and avoid probate altogether. By implementing these strategies shared by Craig, Terrill, Hamm, Grossman & Erwin, LLP, individuals can protect their assets, maintain privacy, and ensure a smoother transition of wealth to their loved ones.

Holding Assets in Joint Ownership

One effective technique for avoiding probate is to hold assets in joint ownership with the right of survivorship. When one co-owner passes away, the surviving co-owner automatically becomes the sole owner of the property. Assets such as real estate, bank accounts, and investments can be held jointly, removing the need for probate altogether. However, it’s crucial to consider the implications and legal requirements of joint ownership, as it may impact control and management of the assets during one’s lifetime.

Giving Away Assets During Lifetime

Another approach to minimize the need for probate is to give away assets during one’s lifetime. By transferring ownership of property or assets to intended beneficiaries before death, individuals can reduce the size of their estate and simplify the asset transfer process. This option allows the grantor to see their loved ones enjoy the assets they have passed and avoid the additional complexities associated with probate.

Establishing a Living Trust

A living trust is an effective tool for avoiding probate and streamlining asset transfer. It involves transferring ownership of assets into a trust while the owner is alive, so that the assets can be managed and dispersed to beneficiaries without going through probate. Living trusts provide greater control and flexibility compared to simple joint ownership, as they allow for more complex distribution instructions, including staggered distributions, conditional bequests, and asset protection provisions. This option ensures privacy, reduces costs, and allows for a more seamless transfer of assets to beneficiaries.

Designating Beneficiaries

Another highly effective technique for avoiding probate is designating beneficiaries for certain assets, such as life insurance policies, retirement funds, and payable-on-death bank accounts. By properly completing beneficiary designation forms, these assets bypass probate and are immediately transferred to the designated beneficiaries upon the owner’s death. It’s important to regularly review and update beneficiary designations to ensure they align with one’s current wishes and overall estate plan.

Probate can be a complex and time-consuming process to distribute assets after death. The experienced estate planning attorneys at contact Craig, Terrill, Hamm, Grossman & Erwin, LLP can work with you to create a customized plan streamline the asset transfer process to achieve your goals.