It’s true that as a society we work to avoid planning for the unpleasant inevitable, death.  It is easier to avoid the topic and go on about life living then to face the fact head on that eventually we will pass on and our families will continue to live without us.  However, if we plan ahead for what will happen to your property when you are no longer around it will save a great deal of time and money for those who you are leaving behind.  With a detailed estate plan in place you will ensure that your assets are dispersed accordingly.

Probate is the process that your assets will go through in observance of the terms set forth in your will often referred to as the probate litigation process.  This process is managed by your state’s probate court.  When assets are located outside of the state in which you live additional proceedings will take place in those states.  Assets that are jointly owned such as retirement benefits, life insurance proceeds, jointly owned property and bank account are considered non-probate assets.

Most people believe having a will in place will be enough to avoid probate but in reality this is not the case.  Any and all assets that you personally own even if intending to pass them on to your beneficiaries are subject to probate.  The process of probate is time consuming and tedious.  The rules that each state follows vary, rarely is probate proceeded with in a timely manner.  The process can take anywhere between three months to three years to resolve themselves depending on the state and size of your estate.  This is an exceptionally long time for your loved ones to wait to finalize your passing, especially if they need the income from the estate to settle your affairs in full.

The process of probate in itself is costly with various fees.  Of course the larger your estate the more potential there is for expense.  Smaller estates with properties outside of your state can become quite costly to settle.  Taking this all into consideration there are steps that individuals can take to avoid the probate process. Having the following in place can help your loved ones to avoid the often lengthy process of probate.

1)      Have a revocable living trust in place.

2)      Convert personal accounts and individual retirement accounts to pay on death accounts.

3)      Establish joint ownership for any and all property through any one of the following: joint tenancy, tenancy by the entirety and community property.

4)      Distribute property to loved ones before you pass away.  Gifts proceeding death do not undergo probate when you die.

5)      Benefit from small estate laws and provisions.  Reputable, local estate planning attorneys can help a great deal with this.

The Law Office of Sean J. Nichols is dedicated to assisting clients throughout legal issues that come with aging including: elder law, estate planning, probate law and more.  Check out the Law Office of Sean J. Nichols at to contact an estate attorney today.