Let's Avoid Probate Together

"All I need is a simple will," is a phrase many folks repeat when they come in to see us during their free estate planning consultation. They probably have searched on Google and have some knowledge as to how estate planning works. Some come in with forms they downloaded from some site. Most clients are surprised to learn that only having a simple will almost guarantees that their children may be forced to hire a probate attorney to get things figured out down the road.

A will simply appoints a personal representative (PR) to administer your estate. Your estate comprises of all property that you owned prior to your passing. If the PR shows up to your bank without the proper court paperwork, the bank will refuse to release funds or otherwise give access to the account. Getting the right paperwork from the court can be challenging as there are many hoops to jump through.

A will is a good first step in your estate planning strategy. But if you own real property, we will discuss with you other alternatives to setting up the transfer of your property upon your death and thus avoid probate all together. This might include having the property conveyed via a beneficiary deed or via joint tenancy.

Clients that have many assets might consider forming a trust. Trusts generally avoid the need for probate because you will have named a trustee to handle all trust property. Most trusts are coupled with a "pour-over" will. Upon death, any remaining property not in the trust "pours" over into the trust and the trustee handles the distribution from there.

There is no substitute for consulting with an experienced estate planning attorney to ensure that your affairs are in order with regards to your property.