Probate is often a necessary part of estate distribution after the death of a loved one, but it's not always an easy part. Depending on how the estate was designed, it can be a long and tedious process to go through probate and eventually settle the estate.
Probate courts determine an executor of the estate, authenticate the will, identify the decedent's assets, identify beneficiaries and heirs and guarantee the payment of taxes and debts. The final job of the probate court is to make sure property is distributed in accordance with the person's will or state law.
There are some things people can do to avoid probate when setting up an estate plan. A few options are to:
- Set up revocable living trusts, which transfers property upon a person's death
- Create joint tenancy, which transfers a home to the surviving co-owner upon the person's death
- Name your beneficiary carefully. If you name a beneficiary in a will or estate planning documents, the properties and assets will transfer to that person upon death. It's a good idea to talk to your attorney more about transfer-on-death possibilities.
It isn't always possible to avoid probate, but taking steps to attempt to do so can be helpful in resolving an estate's distribution quickly. However, if the estate does have to go through probate, the process will be monitored and finalized in court, so that you know that it has been taken care of and is legally binding once the estate is closed.
Our site has more on what to expect if you have to go through the probate process or would like to set up your estate plan to avoid it.