How can I avoid probate?

Most estate planners in Southern Florida want to do all they can to avoid probate. This is the costly and often time-consuming legal process of proving a will’s validity, as well as ensuring debts are paid and heirs receive their share of the assets. Taking steps to prevent probate not only prevents your estate from losing money, it also makes the process much easier for your family.

Nerd Wallet recommends changing your property to joint ownership if you want to avoid probate. The joint owner you designate will automatically receive the property upon your death without the need for a lengthy court battle. You can establish joint tenancy or tenancy by entirety. In the latter case, there are two separate owners of the property, each having an equal ownership stake. This option is typically used by married couples.

You can also establish a revocable living trust. Setting up a trust means that the trust will now own your property. Your trustee will be responsible for dispersing property and assets, which bypasses probate and also saves money on fees associated with inheritances. It’s best to have an attorney’s assistance when creating a living trust. If you miss any steps or fail to follow the laws in your state, your assets could be in jeopardy.

Lastly, some people with very large estates choose to give away property and assets before they die. When gifts are distributed before a person dies, they naturally won’t be included in will readings, or a probate hearing if one occurs. However, you have to be careful when giving large gifts from a tax perspective. If you do so frivolously you could increase the tax burden on your estate.