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On probate, and what it means for the testator and family: Part 2

In our last post, we began a two-part discussion of probate: what it is, how it works and what you can expect if you are involved in the probate process. We also mentioned that probate can lead to some financial costs and fees, which naturally leads to this question -- can you avoid the probate process?

You can, in fact, skip the probate process. However, that doesn't mean it is a guarantee. Certain states have laws that allow for certain cases to skip the probate process. Usually the estate in question must have a value that doesn't exceed a certain financial threshold to qualify for skipping the probate process.

However, if you are putting together your estate plan right now, you could utilize three process to protect your estate from probate:

  • Joint ownership with the right of survivorship: What this means is that a piece of property or asset is jointly owned. When one of the owners dies, the other owner automatically assumes control of the property or asset. It inherently skips the probate process.
  • Gifts: This is a simple one. before you die, if you give away your assets or property, then it won't be involved in the probate process at all -- because it is already owned by someone else.
  • Revocable living trust: Under this trust, you transfer your property to someone else, on the condition that they obey the conditions of the trust (which you set forth). The other person would own your property, but only so long as that person stays in line with the rules of the trust, and thus, that property would avoid probate. 

Source: FindLaw, "Avoiding the Probate Process," Accessed Oct. 6, 2015

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