Have you heard that you should avoid probate but aren’t sure exactly why? Or are you new to estate planning and not even sure what probate is? You’re definitely not alone! As an elder law firm dedicated to making life easier for families on the treasure coast, we’re here to support your estate planning process.
Keep reading to understand why avoiding probate might make sense for you and how to prevent the probate process in Stuart, FL.
What is Probate?
Probate is the court-supervised process of settling a deceased person’s estate and distributing his or her property to the intended heirs. Because a deceased person can’t own property – any property that is not in the name of the heirs will need to go through probate in order to pass to the rightful heir, says LegalZoom. Probate also oversees any necessary paying off of debts.
Have you heard horror stories about the probate process? Or maybe you’ve heard that it isn’t something to fear? Probate is one of those things that can go very badly or quite well. It can end up being a nightmare, or it can also be just a slight inconvenience. But better safe than sorry.
In some cases, your estate might not even need probate. And there are many ways to plan your estate to avoid probate. We’ll get to that in a minute.
Why Is Probate Undesirable?
There are two basic reasons to avoid probate: time and money.
Probate doesn’t always live up to its nightmarish stigma, but it does open the door for negative issues. If probate is necessary, it has the potential to cause significant problems and stress for your loved ones. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why it’s better to avoid probate if possible:
- Probate can temporarily prevent your loved ones from accessing their inheritance. While the estate is in probate, heirs will not be able to access a penny. This might not always be a problem, but it can cause your loved ones considerable stress and headache if they need to foot funeral expenses and probate costs without their inheritance money to help. Probate is especially a problem if your spouse doesn’t have a separate income or significant assets. Without being able to touch the money that is rightfully theirs but not in their name, your spouse might be unable to pay basic living expenses.
- Probate is time-consuming, demanding, and inconvenient. Probate can take anywhere from a few months to a few years! The probate process requires your loved ones to juggle lots of deadlines, paperwork, legal rules, and appointments.
- Probate can be expensive! It doesn’t seem fair to have to pay money to access money, does it? The legal fees associated with probate will cut into your family’s inheritance and could cause unnecessary stress.
- Probate can result in an invasion of privacy and related anxiety. Estate planning can already be an emotionally charged aspect of life, and you want to cause as little anxiety as possible to your loved ones after you are gone. Probate opens up all of your estate plans to the public eye – and could cause ensuing jealousy, embarrassment, or tension. If you want to keep your financial affairs private – including the details of what you are leaving to which family member or loved one – it’s best to avoid probate.
How to Avoid Probate
Normally, proper planning can prevent your estate from going through probate. To avoid probate, you will need to make sure that your assets pass directly to your heirs. One of the ways to do this is to create a living trust. A living trust means that you can manage your assets until your death and also ensure that the assets pass seamlessly to your heirs after your death. With a trust, you’ll appoint a trustee to help manage your affairs and distribute assets upon your death. LegalZoom notes some other ways to avoid probate, such as:
- Holding property jointly so that the other owner takes full ownership upon your death
- Designating beneficiaries on life insurance and retirement accounts
- Designating beneficiaries on pay-on-death (POD) bank accounts or transfer-on-death (TOD) investment accounts.
Do You Want Support?
Are you wanting to avoid probate but not sure the best way to do it? Or maybe you aren’t sure if taking measures to avoid probate is necessary for your estate. We’re here to support you – not just by answering questions but by guiding you through your legal needs with compassion and dedication. Our elder law attorneys care about making your estate planning a success – for you and for the generations to come. Let’s talk about your best path forward. Contact our Stuart office at 772-261-8556 or online.
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Stuart, FL 34994
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