One of the chief goals of the estate planning process is to minimize time-consuming and resource-draining burdens that will fall to your loved ones and family members after you have passed away. The best way to ensure that your survivors won’t be tied up with costly, time-consuming, and emotionally demanding administrative details in the aftermath of a painful loss is to devise an estate planning strategy that is likely to keep your assets out of probate.
There are many different methods that can be used to increase the chances that your estate will be able to avoid probate, and the ones that are most applicable to your unique situation are best determined by a qualified estate planning attorney or advisor. As a general reference, here are a few of the most commonly used probate-avoidance strategies.
Establish a living trust. Suitable for many types of assets and property, a living trust offers a great deal of flexibility and often allows the transfer of assets to occur without triggering the probate process. What’s more, these arrangements offer a great deal of flexibility and can easily be changed or modified.
Create payable-on-death accounts. Many policies and accounts allow for a ‘payable-on-death’ designation that will transfer the assets to the beneficiary you have named immediately after you have passed away, without being subject to probate.
Hold assets or property in joint tenancy. Suitable for spouses or certain types of business partners, joint tenancy is a simple arrangement that allows ownership of some kinds of assets or property to be transferred to a co-owner upon your demise.
Clearly identify beneficiaries on all assignable accounts. For bank accounts, retirement funds, policies, and other assets that allow one or more beneficiaries to be named, clearly identifying the person or persons to whom you would like the property to transfer is a simple but effective way of minimizing the risk that the assets will wind up in probate.
The best estate planning strategy is one that employs a variety of probate-avoidance strategies tailored to your unique circumstances. Consult with an estate planning attorney to develop a strategy that makes sense for you.