Probate is the legal process through which a court validates a deceased person’s will, settles their debts, and distributes assets to heirs. The probate process can be long and arduous. In fact, in the United States probate takes an average of 16 months. To avoid the hassle, many people plan their estate to avoid probate as much as possible. Here are some of the top ways to avoid the wait for probate:
- Create a living trust
A living trust is a legal entity that you create during your lifetime. You can then transfer your assets into the trust, and the trust will distribute those assets to your beneficiaries after you die. This avoids probate because the assets in the trust do not go through the probate court.
- Own your property jointly with right of survivorship
When you own property jointly with right of survivorship, the surviving owner automatically inherits your share of the property when you die. This property will not go through the probate court.
- Designate beneficiaries on your accounts
Most accounts allow you to designate beneficiaries. Make sure to do so on retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and other assets. When you die, the assets will go directly to your named beneficiaries, and will not have to go through probate.
- Give away property during your lifetime
If you give away property while you are alive, it will not be subject to probate after you die. However, you should be aware that federal gift tax sometimes applies to gifts of certain amounts. Others don’t. Gifts to a spouse, for example, are tax free.
The laws and regulations surrounding probate vary by jurisdiction so it’s essential to seek professional advice to ensure your estate plan aligns with your goals and local laws. An estate attorney can help you determine which methods are best for you and can help you create the required documents.
Here are some additional tips for estate planning that will make things go more smoothly:
- Keep good records.
It is important to keep good records of your assets and your beneficiaries. This will make it easier for your executor to distribute your assets after you die.
- Update your documents regularly.
As your life changes, you will need to update your estate planning documents. This includes your will, living trust, and beneficiary designations.
- Talk to your family about your wishes.
Take the time to talk to your family about your wishes for your estate. This can go a long way in avoiding disagreements after you die.
If these steps are too late for you to follow and the probate process is already udnerway, there is still a way for you to avoid the long wait and get your inheritance funds faster if you have an urgent need for them: an inheritance advance. This is a cash payment of a percentage of your inheritance made to you in exchange for an agreed upon fee (usually a small percentage of the total inheritance value) which is collected upon the closing of the estate. Go here for more information on the inheritance advance process.