Probate is a legal process that takes place after someone dies. This includes:

  1. Proving to the Court that the Will is valid
  2. Identifying and recording the deceased’s personal items
  3. Appraising the property
  4. Paying remaining taxes and debts
  5. Providing remaining property to heirs

Just five simple steps, right? Wrong.

By reading the aforementioned process, you must believe probate goes something like this…

Grandma dies, grandma’s will is read by the court, grandma pays her taxes, then grandma gives her prized mahjong set to her favorite son. The family then skips off into sunset and lives happily ever after.

In an ideal world, we would all be eating milk and cookies while listening to the final requests of Bubbe. But the truth is, probate is a long, arduous, stressful process that does not include milk and cookies. In fact, by the time you are done with probate, you might feel like you are on the verge of death yourself.

Like your mother-in-law, probate is something you might want to avoid. But unlike your mother-in-law, probate is something you can avoid by visiting with an estate planning attorney and setting up a revocable trust.

It would behoove you to work with the estate-planning attorneys at Wild Felice & Partners and avoid the hell on earth called probate.

Here are three ways to avoid probate:

  1. Living Trust: Living trusts were invented to avoid probate. Any asset held as part of a trust will avoid probate. This is so important so we will repeat that, any property within a trust will avoid probate. After the death of your loved one, the trustee can easily and quickly transfer the trust property to the family or friends it was designated to, without probate.
  1. Joint Ownership of Property: By adding someone else to take title on your property, the papers show ownership. Therefore, when the owner dies, the property goes to the other joint-owner – no probate involved. However, you should NEVER own something with someone you aren’t married to. There are asset protection and tax consequences to doing to.
  1. Gifts/Beneficiary Designations: Giving away property while you’re alive helps you avoid probate for a very simple reason: If you don’t own it when you die, it doesn’t have to go through probate. That lowers probate costs because, as a general rule, the higher the monetary value of the assets that go through probate, the higher the expense. However, be prepared to pay gift tax for any gift over $14,000 in a given year. Gifting at the time of death, via Trust or beneficiary designation, is much more affordable.

Losing a loved one is already a stressful and arduous experience. Why would you chose to allow your family to suffer through probate during their time of mourning? It is recommended to contact an estate-planning attorney to ensure your assets are all protected, including the mahjong set.