Losing a loved one can be a difficult time. It’s worse when someone close to you dies and you need to help settle their estate through probate. This can be a very time consuming and costly process that can take months, even years to complete. However, you can save your loved ones some of this headache by planning ahead with proper estate planning.
Probate is the legal process for distributing your assets after you die. Avoiding the costs and delays of probate can be simpler than you think. Read on for some basic tips to help you avoid probate.
1. Give away your assets
One of the easiest ways to avoid the probate process is to give away your assets before you die. If you give property away while you are alive, it won’t go through probate after you die.
Be aware there are gift limitations and potential tax consequences, but these can be managed by consulting a skilled probate attorney.
2. Establish a living trust
Simply explained, a living trust places your property “in trust”. The assets in the trust are not a part of your probate estate upon your death. This avoids the probate process because your named trustee controls the trust. They must distribute the trust assets according to the terms of the trust agreement.
Attorney fees for setting up a trust are higher than simply creating a will. However, they will more than likely be significantly less than probate fees and taxes if you didn’t have one.
3. Name beneficiaries on bank and retirement accounts
This is as easy as it sounds, yet many people don’t take the time to name beneficiaries for their retirement, bank and investment accounts. All you need to do is request and fill out the required form, for each account, and name a beneficiary. Upon your death, all the money is transferred directly to the named beneficiary without going through probate. This is also true of security registrations.
Be sure to consult your probate attorney on what states allow deeds on the property (versus retirement and bank accounts) to be created to facilitate easy transfers on death.
4. Own property jointly
Property owned jointly with rights of survivorship passes to the surviving owner automatically. Any property can be owned jointly (real estate, cars, boats, financial accounts, and securities) and will pass to the surviving owner when one owner dies.
This is an easy way to avoid probate but one drawback is that the joint owner has rights to the property while you are living. For example, if you make your daughter the joint owner of your house, she must agree to the sale of it. And if, for example, you make your daughter joint owner of your bank account, she has full rights to the money within the account and can make withdrawals, etc., without your permission. In addition, if she is the unfortunate defendant in a legal action that she loses, your bank account could become the asset of the person who sued her. So, exercise caution and make sure you know the intentions of the people you name as joint owners on your property or assets and consider the possible risks.
5. Have a small estate
If all you have is a bank account with less than $15,000 on deposit that can be transferred without probate. You can use the affidavit in O.C.G.A.§ 7-1-239 and have the bank transfer the balance to the next of kin.
If you need a probate lawyer in or around Savannah, Georgia, you can schedule online here or call us at (912)352-3999.