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Avoid the Probate Headache With Smart Estate Planning

June 06, 2024

If you've ever had a family member pass away, you may have run into something called "probate." Probate is the judicial process that happens after someone dies to distribute their money and belongings to the right people. The Probate court gets involved to make sure the person's last wishes are followed based on their will and other documents.

While it may sound straightforward, probate can easily become a huge headache that costs a lot of time, money, and stress for families. Court fees, tons of paperwork, and potential fights between relatives can really bog things down. But with some smart estate planning ahead of time, you may be able to avoid probate altogether. Let's take a closer look.

The Problems With Probate

The probate process can be a massive hassle in several key ways:

Expense - Attorney fees, court costs, appraisal fees, and other expenses can eat up a good chunk of the estate's value before heirs get their share. A simple estate can cost $5,000-$10,000 just for basic probate!

Delays - Even a straightforward probate case takes a minimum of 6-9 months to fully resolve in Ohio. More complex estates with disputes involved can drag on for years before distribution. Think about having part of what you leave for loved ones tied up that long in the court system.

Lack of Privacy - Probate requires submitting a full inventory of the deceased person's assets to the court's public records. This could expose sensitive financial information or lead to challenges over the will if someone isn't happy.

Potential for Family Feuds - Any concerns or objections raised during probate can tie up assets for a long time as the case plays out. Sadly, this sometimes results in messy legal battles between relatives over the inheritance.

As you can see, avoiding probate through smart planning makes a lot of sense whenever possible! A few proven strategies can help families bypass this whole process.

Using Revocable Living Trusts

One of the most common ways to avoid probate is through a revocable living trust. With a trust, you technically transfer ownership of your assets from yourself to the trust during your lifetime. Once you pass away, those assets can seamlessly transfer to your beneficiaries according to the trust terms with no court oversight.

Setting up trusts does involve some up front time and costs. But once established, all of your assets like bank accounts, real estate, investments, and personal possessions can be re-titled under the trust's name. This makes the transition of ownership very efficient with zero probate red tape.

Some Additional Benefits of Trusts:

  • Avoiding Conservatorship - If you become incapacitated, your hand-picked trustee can immediately take over management of trust assets without court intervention.
  • More Control - Trust provisions provide detailed guidance on how and when assets transfer to beneficiaries, including placing conditions or restrictions.
  • Privacy - Trust contents remain confidential and out of probate court's public records.
  • Latest Tax Advantages - Trusts can employ strategies to minimize or eliminate estate taxes in a way wills cannot.

While trusts aren't absolutely required to avoid probate, they are the most comprehensive tool available. Experienced estate attorneys can walk you through the various types of trusts and whether they make sense for your unique situation.

Other Non-Probate Methods

There are a few other methods that can potentially allow assets to transfer outside of probate as well:

Joint Ownership - Jointly owned assets like bank accounts or real estate automatically pass to the surviving owners upon one owner's death. However, this option has some risks involved.

Transfer on Death Deeds - These special kinds of deeds can designate beneficiaries to receive your real estate outside of probate when you pass away.

Payable on Death Accounts - Owners can name beneficiaries to directly receive the balance of bank accounts, investment accounts, life insurance policies, and retirement accounts at their death.

While handy in some cases, these probate shortcuts tend to be limited compared to the full benefits and protections of a living trust. They should generally be seen as tools complementing a trust, not replacements for one.

An Estate Plan Designed for You

At the end of the day, figuring out how to plan your estate in the most probate-avoiding and tax-efficient manner is no simple task. There are many different scenarios, assets, and family situations to consider. Things can get very complicated, very quickly for those trying to go it alone.

This is precisely why enlisting the help of an experienced estate planning attorney is so invaluable. An attorney can assess your unique situation and recommend the right tool or combination of strategies to facilitate streamlined transfer of your assets to loved ones while legally circumventing probate.

In addition to specializing in trusts and securing your wishes, an estate lawyer ensures all aspects are structured in a way that minimizes taxes and legal fees eating away at what you leave behind. With their assistance, you can sleep well at night knowing your affairs are in complete order.

Learn More at Our Upcoming Workshop

If you want to avoid probate and have a solid, professional estate plan in place, our upcoming workshops are the perfect opportunity to get started. Wylkan Law regularly hosts free, no-obligation sessions to help you understand all of your options and make the most informed decisions.

Our friendly team will be available to answer questions. Bring your loved ones so they are part of the conversation! We'll make sure you walk away feeling empowered to take the next step.

Seating is limited, so reserve your spot today by calling 800-635-1355 or registering online.

Having an airtight estate plan is one of the greatest gifts you can give your family. We hope to see you at the workshop as you begin this important process!

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Fremont, OH 43420
Phone: (800) 635-1355
Fax: (419) 332-5253

 
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