After an individual passes on, his or her estate must go through the probate process. While some believe that going through probate is a long and stressful process, it tends to be quick and relatively easy. During this process, assets inside of an estate are inventoried and accounted for. Although it is possible to place assets outside of an estate to avoid probate, there is often little or no reason to do so.
Those who don’t put their assets into a living trust may be able to avoid probate anyway. For instance, money inside of a retirement account or a life insurance death benefit may pass directly to a previously named beneficiary. Real estate that was held in the name of the deceased may also pass to a beneficiary or be passed directly to a spouse.
Typically, the probate process may be extended due to tax laws that are outside of the probate court’s control. Therefore, avoiding probate may not cause an estate to be settled any faster than it would if probate were not avoided. Additionally, it is important to consider the fees and other costs of having a trustee administer property held inside of a trust. For most people, a living trust is more useful for estate planning purposes instead of as a tool to avoid probate.
Individuals who are interested in learning more about the probate process may wish to talk to an estate planning attorney. An attorney may be able to provide more information about what probate is and whether or not there is any benefits to creating a trust to avoid it. A lawyer may also be able to talk about different estate planning tools available to create a plan that meets an individual’s needs now and in the future.