Understanding Estate Plans and Probate
Having an estate plan ensures that your assets, bank accounts, and other properties are appropriately distributed in the event of your death. Having a sound estate plan in place can not only help avoid probate, but it can give you and your family peace of mind. It's essential to keep in mind that estate planning and avoiding probate can be complex, and attention to detail is of the utmost importance since it's a legal matter. Read on to learn more about why it's critical to have an estate plan in place to help avoid probate.
What Is Probate?
Probate is the legal process in which a court decides how to distribute a deceased person's assets when there is no will. Settling estate matters of the deceased through probate is complicated. However, a good estate plan can help your loved ones avoid the pitfalls and stresses of going through the probate process in the event of your death. Probate is also used to substantiate the validity of a person's will. If a person already has a will, the probate court will examine the legitimacy of the deceased person's last will and testament.
Probate is a time-consuming and complicated process. However, here are some tips on how you can avoid it.
How to Avoid Probate
No matter the size of your estate, learning how to avoid probate is always favorable. If someone dies without a will, the probate court will appoint an estate administrator. The estate administrator will work to resolve all legal and financial issues related to the estate. They are also responsible for determining who the decedent's legal heirs are.
When it comes to estate planning, here are some things you can do to avoid probate:
Create a Living Trust or Will
No matter your estate planning goals, you should consult an estate planning attorney to help you decide if a will or living trust will be the best way to handle your estate. Understanding the benefits of each can help you make an informed decision.
The Benefits of a Will
- Allows you to name someone you trust to handle your affairs after your passing.
- Ensures that the state does not interfere with your wishes in distributing your assets.
- Establishes legal guardianship for minors.
- Can be amended at any time.
The Benefits of a Living Trust
- Name family and friends to receive assets without having to go through probate.
- Your appointed trustee will distribute your assets to your loved ones according to your instructions.
- Your trustees will be able to receive your assets quickly without legal fees that can diminish inheritance.
- If you should become mentally incapacitated, a revocable living trust gives you the freedom to name someone you trust to take care of you and handle your personal affairs without court interference.
Creating a living trust places your future assets in a trust that is overseen by a trustee. Should you pass away, your trustee is responsible for carrying out the directions stated in your trust.
Designate Financial Accounts as "Payable on Death"
If you have a checking, savings, and.or retirement account, your financial institution can give you the option to name a beneficiary on your accounts with the option for "payable on death." This means that upon your passing, your designated beneficiaries will receive these assets.
Establish Joint Tenancy
Naming someone (usually a spouse) as the co-owner of titled property, such as your vehicle or home, can ensure that the property goes to the right person that you choose upon your death. When establishing asset ownership for your titled property, it's critical to ensure that the title indicates at least one of the following:
- The title is held as joint tenants with rights of survivorship.
- The title is held as tenants by the entirety.
- The title is held as community property.
How a Carrollton Probate Attorney Can Help
When it comes to settling an estate after a loved one has passed, you'll want an experienced probate attorney on your side to guide you through the process. Taking into consideration the above can help to avoid probate. However, having a probate attorney assess your particular situation may uncover other options that will best suit your needs.
Our team of experienced attorneys will answer all your questions about probate to make the process less daunting. Contact Auten & Willingham, P.C. today at (214) 643-8757 to learn more about how we can help.