If you don’t create an estate plan which focuses on probate avoidance, much of your property will have to first go through the probate process before someone else can become the new owner. This process can often eat up a lot of time and money, so avoiding probate is usually a very good idea. There are several categories of property which, unless you prepare adequately, must pass through probate.
Any Individually Owned Property
Let’s say you make a last will and testament in which you direct how your individually owned property will pass to your inheritors. Before this can happen, a probate court will have to determine if the will is valid and then your estate can begin the distribution process. If you own property jointly with someone else, such as owning a home as joint tenants with right of survivorship, the property doesn’t have to go through probate because upon your death the other owner becomes the sole owner automatically.
Assets Without Beneficiary Designations
Some assets, such as a retirement account or some bank accounts, allow you to choose a beneficiary who will inherit the property upon your death. These properties will pass outside of probate, but any accounts which don’t have beneficiary designation will have to be probated first.
Assets Outside of a Trust
If you created a revocable living trust and have funded it by transferring your property to, this property does not have to go through probate. However, if you forgot about some of your property or made a mistake during the transferring process, that property will have to be probated. A good attorney can help you ensure that all of your property is in your trust so that you don’t end up in probate.