avoid all the problems that probate can cause your family

By: Stuart Williams | Estate Planning Lawyer

What is Probate?

"Probate" refers to the court process of transferring title of a deceased person's assets to his or her family. A deceased person's "probate estate" is comprised of each asset that needs to be transferred out of the name of the deceased person, and into the names of his or her beneficiaries.

Probate can be quick and easy if you have a sole beneficiary and you qualify for a small estate (under $23,000). But if you own a home and have worked hard to save for retirement like most of our clients, probate could cost tens-of-thousands of dollars and take a year or longer to get through if a proper estate plan is not utilized.

How to Avoid Probate

Each asset; i.e. each piece of real estate, financial account, or other valuable property placed properly into a person's trust, is an asset no longer includable in what would be their “probate estate.” When all of a person's assets are placed into their trust, the trust creator's "probate estate" is reduced to $zero, and "probate" is avoided.

What are Trusts?

A trust is a legal planning tool that can be used to easily transfer your most valuable assets to loved ones, and in a way that when used properly, will (1) avoid probate courts (2) maximize the value of what you will leave to your family, while (3) greatly reducing the potential for the kind of conflicts that never end.

How a Trust Works

Your residence, other real estate, jewelry, household items, life insurance, 401K (and anything else you own), can be easily transferred to beneficiaries of your trust, and without having to step inside the four walls of a court.

Imagine that your trust is like a magic box that can hold any asset you own. Your box can also be locked and unlocked by yourself, and special people that you've given permission to hold a key in the event of your incapacity, and also when you pass away.

Your special person (called a successor-trustee) will have the required legal authority to "unlock" your assets at your various financial institutions and insurance companies, as well as sell your real estate to distribute the proceeds to the rest of your family (if that's what you want to have happen). Your successor-trustee will then proceed to distribute your assets among the people you've chosen, and in accordance with the detailed instructions that you've left.

A Word of Caution

Not all trusts are created equally. Many lawyers don't practice enough in the area of estate planning to know the difference between planning that will avoid probate and planning that won't, or for that matter how to plan for people that you love and care about.

At Family Wills & Trusts PLC, we’ll make sure there are no gaps in your estate plan that would leave you and your family exposed to unnecessary financial waste, headaches, or the stresses of probate. Request free information or schedule an appointment below to see how you can benefit from working with us.