When probate becomes necessary, it is usually around an already stressful time for people. Probate is brought on after a family member’s death, leading the family to go through estate and assets. However, it is uncommon for money and wills to be easy to talk about right after a death in the family. With that being said, it could be wise to look at what steps can be taken to make the process of probate easier on your family.
Probate happens whether you have a will or not. Having a will can make the ordeal more manageable and possibly quicker as the attorneys, banks, and the state does not need to go through their own processes. If there is no will, the state may take half of the estate while the other half goes to the heir of the deceased, and if there is a will, this gives the family a chance to contest or accept the information provided.
Either way, will or not, probate is a costly and time-consuming step. There are tactics that can be done ahead of time to reduce probate costs and make the process easier for your loved ones.
Consider Joint Ownership
Assets such as stocks, bank accounts, vehicles, and houses can be owned single-handedly or with your partner. There is the reasoning for both, and at the moment of purchase, the idea of joint ownership may not cross your mind. However, this could help bypass the whole back and forth process when it comes to probate. By signing on with your spouse or someone you hope to pass the asset on to, you allow that investment to be handed down to them in the event you die.
Creating joint ownership of high-priced assets can ensure that the survivor will get passed down the proper estate. This can also save money and time in the probate process as, on average, the higher value of the asset will raise the cost of probate.
Don’t Lose Track of Time
Over time people’s lives will change, marriages will end, children will be born, and insurance will end. After any major life event, it can be essential to go through your will and beneficiaries to ensure they are still to your satisfaction. It is very common to see beneficiaries not changed after the first marriage and forgotten about. Not keeping up with beneficiaries can give your assets to the wrong people.
The process of figuring out if the names are incorrect and what needs to be changed can take up more unnecessary time and money through the probate process. In the end, no matter what your will might say, the beneficiaries listed will be chosen over what your will states, so it’s important to keep up to date with prior decisions,
Trust Your Trust
With big-ticket assets such as homes and vehicles, it can be wise to place them in a trust with those you wish to pass the item down to. These trusts are called Revocable Living Trusts and Inter-Vivos Trusts. These trusts ensure that you give the specific asset to the right person and bypass the whole probate process down the road. The estate will automatically be given to the named beneficiaries.
This process can save time and money in the probate steps and let your family access the estates quicker and easier.
Take Advantage of Tax-Free Gifts
Another precaution to look into on top of creating a valid will and trust is to hand out gifts before death. If the monetary gift is $15,000 or below, there will not be a tax put on top, and you are able to gift this money easily to loved ones. Keep in mind you can only do this once per person each year.
Once again, by lowering the amount of money to be moved around during probate, you are reducing the costs for your family members down the road and making the probate cheaper to get through.
If you are currently going through the probate process or are looking to make the process easier on your loved ones, reach out to our team at Hartmann Law Office to discuss your options and what you can do to best prepare and help your family.