The central focus of most estate planning efforts is to ensure that the assets that a family has accumulated over time will pass to the chosen heirs. In order to meet that goal, Tennessee residents must make every effort to create a clear and properly drafted estate plan that outlines those wishes. For some families, it is also important to take preventative measures that will ensure that assets get into the right hands, while avoiding the risk of probate issues.
Probate can take a considerable amount of time, ranging from three months to three years. For many heirs, a lengthy waiting period can bring financial distress. In order to avoid probate and transfer assets directly to the designated party, many people make estate planning arrangements that fall outside of a simple will.
One option involves creating a revocable living trust. These vehicles allow a family to place assets into the trust, then designate individuals as beneficiaries. At the time of death, the assets within the trust will be available to the designated parties, outside of the probate process. Trusts are incredibly flexible estate planning tools, and an attorney can help guide a family through the various choices.
Another option is to establish joint ownership of certain assets with the chosen heir prior to death. This ensures that at the time of the death of one owner, the other will immediately assume full ownership of the property. This can be a good option for real estate or valuable personal property such as cars, boats or recreational vehicles. The downside of joint ownership is the fact that jointly owned property is subject to loss in the event of divorce, bankruptcy or lien placement.
Tennessee families have a number of options when seeking to avoid probate issues. Each set of circumstances is unique, and the best way to devise a comprehensive estate planning package is to work with a qualified attorney. He or she can provide guidance on the best options, and can explain the pros and cons of various plans.
Source: nerdwallet.com, "5 Smart Estate-Planning Steps to Avoid Probate", James E. Salter, Feb. 10, 2016