If you are planning your estate, like many people, you may want to do everything you can to avoid probate court. Your will and final wishes must be able to stand on their own so you can spare your family the expense and trouble. Here are some things that can help you through your planning so you can help your family avoid the probate process.
Have Retirement Accounts "Pay on Death"
Sometimes, protecting your family from probate court can be as simple as filling out some paperwork. For example, your retirement account may be in your name, but converting it to "pay on death" status will ensure that the money in that account goes directly to the beneficiary you name. That will avoid any need for probate proceedings, and there is no need for your beneficiary to do anything to receive that money.
Set Up Joint Ownership
If you have a business or own property with another person, instead of keeping everything in your name or maintaining your percentage of interest, be sure to set up joint ownership. That way, when you pass away, the entity will automatically go to the other person who owns it with you. If you want to set up joint ownership of your business with your beneficiaries, that is an option that is available to you. Be sure to name each and every beneficiary separately.
Update Documents on a Regular Basis
Even if you have done everything necessary to ensure that your assets go to the right people, you may still cause your family to end up in probate court if you fail to update your documents regularly. Divorces, deaths, disagreements, marriages, and births happen in every family, so if you no longer want your business to go to your eldest son for example, you need to take steps to make sure that they are no longer the beneficiary listed on official documents. Make sure you update beneficiary lists and living trust documents to reflect your most current wishes.
Use the tips in this article to help you create documents that will enable your family to avoid probate court. You may want to enlist the help of an attorney like Davis & Mathis who is experienced in probate administration so they can double check your documents; if your family does end up going through the probate process anyway, your attorney can act as a knowledgeable advocate on your behalf.