Many people are not aware that it is possible to avoid the probate process with proper estate planning. Probate is the legal process of estate administration that takes place when someone passes away. Probate administration settles the debts and taxes of the decedent’s estate, and where directed, distributes inheritances and gifts. Whether there is a will or not, probate can take place except in some cases where the estate is very small, or where an estate plan has funneled assets out of the estate.
Three basic steps involved in a standard probate are the following:
Filing the petition and the will, if available, in the county in which the decedent resided.
Filing of inventory of the estate by either the executor or the personal representative.
Settlement of the estate, in which the executor files an accounting of payment of debts and taxes, as well disbursements related to the estate.
Probate can be complicated in the distribution of assets, payment of debt and taxes. As draining as the death of a loved one is on the family, dealing with probate adds an added layer of stress. An experienced Probate Attorney can help guide you through the steps to avoid or minimize probate as part of your estate planning.
Can I Avoid Probate?
There are important steps that you can take that will avoid the time and expense of probate in the future, including:
Setting up a trust in which you are the named beneficiary. By assigning a trustee to administer the trust and making yourself the beneficiary, you can have access to your assets while avoiding probate administration in the future.
Joint ownership, whether of the family home, other property deeds, investments or bank accounts, will transfer your assets to the joint tenant with rights to survivorship, which is usually the surviving spouse. While this avoids probate, there are potential tax implications to this method.
Having beneficiary designations on life insurance, IRA, annuity, pension or 401k accounts can funnel your assets directly to your beneficiaries without the need for probate administration. Payable on death (POD) and transfer on death (TOD) bank accounts transfer cash gifts to beneficiaries when you pass away.
A revocable living trust in which you designate the trust as the beneficiary will avoid the taxes associated with probate.
Another great article on Avoiding Probate at The Balance can be found here. Finding the right fit for your financial needs and those of your family is all a part of comprehensive estate planning. It is better to start this process early in order to plan for the future. Though the steps may seem simple, it is always best to meet with a professional that can walk with you through the entire process. This will not only lift the weight of the legal and financial burden on your shoulders but allow you time to grieve properly and provide peace of mind.
About the Company:
Mason & Associates Law Firm, formerly known as Heritage Law Group, PLLC, is a boutique Estate Planning and Elder Law firm assisting residents in Tennessee and Kentucky, with offices in Gallatin and Nashville, Tennessee. We are dedicated to providing client-centered, professional legal services that are individualized through one-on-one consultations. We delight in empowering our clients and community through education and providing specialized resources. Our integrity-driven team will help you protect your legacy while delivering outstanding quality at a reasonable cost. Your Legacy Is Our Priority™
Jake Mason, J.D., LL.M. (Elder Law & Estate Planning), CELA, EPLS, is the Owner of Mason & Associates Law Firm. He is Certified as an Elder Law Attorney with the National Elder Law Foundation, is board-certified in Estate Planning and Probate by The Estate Law Specialist Board, Inc., of the National Association of Estate Planners & Councils, is accredited by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, and is licensed in Kentucky and Tennessee. Mason is the only attorney in Tennessee or Kentucky with Board-Certifications in both Elder Law & Estate Planning. Contact us to schedule a consultation via phone, in-office, or video conference at firstname.lastname@example.org or Gallatin (615) 989-7054 | Nashville (615) 619-2791.