Probate is a legal process that can be time-consuming and costly, and it often adds unnecessary stress to an already difficult situation.
Fortunately, there are strategies you can employ to avoid probate and streamline the transfer of your assets to your heirs.
Establish a living trust
Did you know that in the U.S., less than 46% of people have a will, much less an estate plan with a living trust? However, this tool is an effective way to avoid probate. This is a legal arrangement where you transfer your assets into a trust while you are still alive. You can manage and use your assets as you normally would. Then, upon your passing, your trustee distributes these assets to your beneficiaries without the need for probate.
Joint ownership, beneficiary designations and POD
When you jointly own property or accounts with a right of survivorship, the asset automatically passes to the surviving owner upon your death. Also, many assets, such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts and bank accounts, allow you to designate beneficiaries, which allows you to bypass probate. Many banks and financial institutions offer accounts that automatically transfer to the designated beneficiaries upon your death, avoiding probate.
The IRS permits tax-free gifts up to a certain amount each year, and these gifts can reduce the size of your estate, potentially lowering the probate process’s complexity.
Small estate affidavit
In some cases, if your estate is small, you might qualify for a simplified probate process or even an exemption. This varies by state, so research your local laws and see if you qualify for a small estate affidavit.
For the best results, regularly review and update your estate plan, especially during major life changes.