While estate planning is largely about trying to figure out how to pass your wealth onto your loved ones and protecting your financial and healthcare decisions in the event that you become incapacitated, it’s also about protecting your family’s relationships and the viability of your estate. This is because an improperly or inadequately created estate plan can leave your loved ones bickering over who is entitled to your assets, and it can also lead to a drawn-out probate process. This, in turn, can leave your loved one dealing with headaches and your estate facing extensive costs.
How to avoid probate issues
Fortunately, you can head off a lot of probate issues by creating a thorough and legally binding estate plan. Therefore, if you want to protect your loved ones and your estate from the probate process, then you might want to consider doing each of the following:
- Creating an enforceable will: An estate that lacks a will is probably going to have to go through probate, and legal issues with your will are going to have to be sorted out in probate court, too. Sometimes this means that your loved ones and the court are left to figure out what you intended, which can generate a lot of disagreement and expenses.
- Identify a beneficiary of your real estate: If you’re the sole owner of your home or some other property, then you’ll want to make sure that you clearly identify who will inherit the property. But even that may not be enough to protect you from the probate process. You might be better off having joint ownership of the property with your intended heir so that they can take full ownership of the property upon your passing.
- Use trusts: Trusts are a great way for you to leave assets to your loved ones for their immediate use while bypassing the probate process. There are many trust options out there to suit your needs, too, so there’s a lot that you can do with this kind of estate planning vehicle.
- Give gifts during your lifetime: Another way to transfer wealth to your loved ones without going through the probate process is to give them money while you’re still alive. The government allows you to give thousands of dollars each year to an individual without suffering tax consequences, which allows you to not only bypass the probate process but also enjoy seeing how your loved one utilizes the resources that you’ve given to him or her.
- Use pay-on-death accounts: You can take your existing bank accounts and revert them to pay-on-death accounts. This means that once you pass away, the assets in those accounts will automatically be redirected to your named beneficiary. This cuts out the probate process completely.
Depending on the complexities of your estate, the probate process can be expensive and take a long time to play out. If you want to avoid that outcome, then we encourage you to consider these and other options that may be available to you.
Don’t leave your loved ones and your estate at risk
You’ve worked hard to build your wealth. Don’t let it go to waste in the probate process. Instead, thoroughly think through how to create the estate plan that protects you, your assets, and your loved ones in both the short-term and the long term.
If that sounds like a daunting endeavor, don’t worry. Attorneys who are adept in this area of the law can walk you through the process so that you can rest assured that you’re avoiding the pitfalls that so many estate plans fall into.