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What is probate and why do people try to avoid it?

One of the topics that you will always hear when an estate plan comes up in a conversation is probate. Many people will qualify this process as a scary and unfortunate part of an estate plan, but in reality probate is merely the execution of an estate and going about the formal and legal steps to ensure that assets are taken care of, taxes are paid and beneficiaries receive what they should.

However, probate can also cause unforeseen circumstances to arise and it can rob people of the opportunity to obtain an asset (either partially or completely) and so people should do everything they can to avoid as much of the probate process as possible. This is where wills, trusts and other legal processes can come into play, allowing a grantor to more fully control his or her estate and where it goes upon their death.

 

If you own property, a joint ownership agreement is a great way to help that property avoid the probate process. In such an agreement, your joint owner would assume ownership of the property automatically upon your death. As such, it would skip the probate process. Along the same line as a joint ownership agreement is the death beneficiary. Again, this is where an asset, account or other finances are automatically passed on to someone else when the grantor dies.

Another option is to simply gift the asset or property to someone. Without the item or property being in your position, it is thus not part of your estate and can't be subject to probate.

Source: FindLaw, "Avoiding the Probate Process," Accessed Nov. 21, 2016

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