Probate is a time-consuming and costly process, making it one of the most stressful tasks one can go through. Thankfully, there are steps that an individual can take to avoid probate if the individual wishes to leave their estate to individual(s) as opposed to having an estate processed by the state.
Probate is the process of the court handling the deceased’s affairs and distributing the assets according to the law. It is one of the most important parts of settling an estate. The process usually takes several months to complete, but it can vary depending on the complexity of the estate. The executor of an estate must begin probate proceedings immediately after the death occurs. This involves filing for letters of appointment as the legal representative of the estate by the court.
Why Do People Avoid Probate?
Many individuals have the idea that probate is a burdensome and time-consuming process. This may be true if a will is not in order. It could take a year or more, depending on how much property is in the estate. An estate with multiple real estate items, community property, business interests, stocks, bonds, etc., could take even longer.
However, if a person has made it easy for their loved ones by leaving clear instructions in a will, probate may be relatively quick and straightforward. The executor only needs to locate the will and file it with the court. This takes a minimal amount of time, effort, and expense.
One of the most prevalent sources of probate expense is the cost of the probate administration. The estimated cost for probate administration will vary, depending on the size and complexity of the estate. In many jurisdictions, the primary cause of the high price tag is the cost of hiring qualified professionals.
- Lacks Privacy
People avoid probate because it has no privacy for their families. Probate not only discloses the debts and assets of the estate but also how any distributions are made. Anyone interested in the deceased person’s assets can search the probate records to find out what property has been left. Many people become targets of burglars or scammers when they receive this type of publicity.
Benefits of Avoiding Probate
- Save Money
Save money Many Americans would like to avoid probate because it can cause high legal fees and long court proceedings. The process of probate, which is the court-controlled method of distributing a deceased person’s assets, can be costly. Costs range from attorney fees, obtaining appraisals of all estate assets and hiring an appraiser to sell the property.
By establishing a living trust, you can sidestep probate altogether. When you die, your assets will be distributed according to the terms of your trust and not the courts because the court never sees your trust document. Your assets pass to your beneficiaries without probate fees when you establish a trust.
- Save Time
Probate can also take years to complete, during which time the court’s control over the deceased person’s assets may prevent you from total access to certain items or accounts. As a result, beneficiaries may have to wait longer than necessary to receive their inheritance.
- Avoid Conflict among Family Members
By avoiding probate, you reduce the probability of a family dispute over a loved one’s estate. Inheritance disputes can escalate from siblings fighting to legal battles between entire families to more serious punishments such as the losing family being evicted from their home. Avoiding probate can help eliminate these issues.
- Keep Your Estate Private.
The probate process is invasive and exposes personal information. Some people prefer to avoid probate and keep their estate as private as possible. When you avoid probate, you don’t have to deal with lawyers, executors, and other third parties and you can keep your finances and business dealings confidential. If you want to keep your estate private, you might want to take a look at trusts and living wills.
How to Avoid Probate
- Co-owning a Property
If there are joint tenants listed on the title, then upon the death of one joint tenant, their interest in the property will automatically transfer to the surviving joint tenant(s). For example, if two people have their names on the title as joint tenants, the deceased’s interest in the property transfers to the survivor upon the death of one.
- Including Gifts in Your Estate Plan
Did you know you can give in cash and assets in one lump sum and avoid probate entirely? It’s called gifting. It doesn’t have to be an entire house or car, just what you want to leave behind for your family when you pass on.
- Accounts and Registrations for Pay-on-Death
After someone names a beneficiary in a Pay-on-Death account, that beneficiary takes the decedent’s place and becomes the legal owner. That person can use the account immediately after the decedent’s death without court intervention.
- Living Trusts
If you use a Living Trust, there is no need for the court to review your estate or even see your Living Trust. The trustee will manage it until your beneficiaries receive their inheritances.
- Making a Will
Typically, preparing a will is the most economical way to get your affairs in order. We can tailor a will to meet your unique needs while avoiding probate court costs and delays.
- Small Estate Provisions
Depending on the state, estate planning procedures for estates under a certain amount, certain types of property, or when a surviving spouse inherits everything may be simple. You should check to see the thresholds for your state because your estate may qualify as it stands.
Having to go through probate court before distributing assets is the worst nightmare for most people. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid probate and pass on an estate, allowing for financial stability in times of grief. That’s where our estate lawyers come in.
At the Tarta Law firm, our experienced attorneys can help you with estate planning documents to avoid having to go through the stress of probate court. Call us today on 201-444-8448 if you live in Midland Park, Ridgewood, Glen Rock, Wyckoff, Saddle River, Upper Saddle River, Ramsey, Paramus, Mahwah, Pines Lake, Wayne, Woodcliff Lake, Park Ridge, Waldwick, HoHoKus, Park Ridge, Allendale and Franklin Lakes, among other municipalities in New Jersey, to schedule your initial consultation!