How well do you trust your family?

Take the guess work out of that question by building an estate plan. When you have a trust in place, there are fiduciary duties that come along with the placement of that trust. This helps to ensure not only that your wishes are adhered to, but it has the ability to keep your assets private by avoiding probate.

Probate is the legal process of administering the estate once a person has died. Because it is a legal judicial process, the records thereof are public. Family, friends or especially creditors deserve access to that information.

The need to probate is determined by the type of property the deceased person had at the time of death and how that property was held, (e.g. what type of title is on the property). Before asking if you can avoid probate, first ask if you need probate. For example, if a property is held by “joint tenancy with right of survivorship” there is no need for probate because the property automatically transfers to the other joint tenant upon death. But the estate will need to be probated when the second joint tenant is deceased unless he or she sets up an estate plan or gets another joint tenant on the property. So even the survivorship title ends up being limiting without proper planning.

An estate must be probated upon death if there is:

Real property titled in the deceased person’s name with a value over $75,000,

Personal property of the deceased valued over $50,000, or

Unpaid wages of the deceased of at least $5,000

Having a will is not necessarily going to help you avoid probate. It certainly can but it depends on the individual circumstances and a few other moving parts. One of the most effective ways to avoid probate is byway of a revocable living trust. A trust has a longer life than a will, as a will “speaks upon death.” A trust is able to hold property much longer than a will and make distribution of assets clean, and certainly less costly.

Proper estate planning saves time and money in the long run and it helps the family move forward upon the death of a loved one.

I urge you to speak with an estate planning attorney about your individual plan and prepare things ahead of time. Remember estate planning is not for the wealthy, it is for every day people like you and me. It really will mean the difference of at least half a year and thousands of dollars spent.

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