by Brian Kuhn
Articles about estate planning tend to put a great deal of focus on avoiding setting up your assets in such a way that your beneficiaries will avoid probate. The probate process is seen as a hassle because it can be time consuming and expensive should it prove difficult to determine how to divide your assets. In fact, the risks associated both with going to probate and the hassle it will cause your family are generally overblown. If you structure your assets properly and carefully set up your estate the risks commonly associated with probate will be naturally avoided.
Determining Your Beneficiaries
One of the key steps in establishing your estate is to determine beneficiaries for your assets. These are the individuals that will inherit your estate once you have passed on. Your beneficiaries can be listed on individual assets or outlined in your will. Potential beneficiaries may include:
- Your spouse
- Other descendants or close family members
- A favorite charity
There are no limits on the numbers of beneficiaries you may establish for your estate, though it is often easier to limit the beneficiary on smaller assets so it is easier to determine how these will be awarded after your passing.
Beneficiary Laws Evolve
Because there is so much emphasis on avoiding probate, laws are changing to provide more focus on this aspect of the system. Recently the Motor Vehicle Administration announced that they would allow individuals to visit a branch office to establish a beneficiary on their vehicle. Previously, cars were one of the only major assets that could not have a designated beneficiary. Such changes indicate that there is a strong demand for this type of estate planning. This is largely caused by the overwhelming belief that going to probate can cause significant difficulty in releasing your estate to your beneficiaries.
Estate Planning with Probate in Mind
If you are worried about helping your loved ones avoid probate when settling your estate, this is easily enough managed. Ensuring that your estate is in order with up to date beneficiaries and requests which reflect the current state of your family and financial affairs will help to ensure that your assets are divided according to your wishes without delay. Specifying a beneficiary for all valuable assets is essential to avoiding much of the debate that can cause probate to be a frustrating and lengthy process.
There are also certain types of estate planning tools that can help you to avoid the probate process. A lawyer can review your assets and determine if these could help the transfer of your estate go more smoothly.
- Transfer on death– A transfer on death or TOD account allows you to immediately transfer the contents of an account to your beneficiary at the time of your death. All that is required is a death certificate and this system can be taken into action.
- Special deeds- Each state has its own requirement regarding how to keep property out of probate, so you will need to speak to a lawyer regarding how to structure your deed based on local law. Generally speaking, if a deed includes a rights of survivorship clause or your beneficiary includes a joint tenancy note for your beneficiary the transfer of property will be seamless.
- Payable on death– A POD account is held by multiple people, in this case you and your beneficiaries, with notes on who will take control of the account once the principle owner passes away.
- Living trust- Placing your money in a trust instead of using a will to liquidate assets will keep these assets private and out of the probate system.
Probate is Not Necessarily a Problem
Those that completed their estate planning before their passing rarely need to worry about probate. If your heirs are aware of how to carry out your wishes and do not argue about how to carry them out the probate process will be rather short. In many cases they will not need to go to court, but simply confirm these details through the mail. Probate is only expensive if individuals continue to drag out the process and argue over how the assets should be divided because legal fees will start to pile up. Probate is designed to provide a sense of order to inheriting assets, ensuring that your wishes are carried out and everyone involved understands their responsibilities in the matter. If everyone behaves accordingly, it will rarely cause hardship for your loved ones.
To learn more about Brian Kuhn, view his Paladin Registry profile.
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