If you’ve been looking into estate planning for yourself or a family member, chances are good you’ve seen references to avoiding probate. But what exactly does this mean, and is it something you want to do?
What is Probate?
Probate is the name given to the legal process that must be followed in order to distribute a person’s assets after their death. The probate process must be completed before these assets can be transferred to the deceased’s heirs.
Probate is a court-driven process, and you must go through probate whether or not there is a will. If there is a will, probate ensures that the deceased’s instructions, as set out in their will, are followed and their assets distributed according to the will’s provisions.
If the deceased doesn’t have a will, then the probate process distributes their assets in accordance with Missouri state laws. These laws are known as intestacy laws, and apply only if there’s no valid will that sets out how the deceased’s assets should be distributed.
Avoiding Probate in Missouri
Because probate must take place through the courts, it’s not a quick process, and in some cases can take quite a long time. Since the assets of the estate can’t be distributed while probate is taking place, going through probate is often something that people want to avoid.
The probate process also costs money. These costs are paid by the estate, which means they’ll come out of the assets held by the estate.
All of this means it makes sense to plan things out so your assets don’t have to go through probate when you die. This is what it means to avoid probate, and it’s something the experienced Springfield probate lawyers at Parks & Jones can help you with.
How to Avoid Probate
Avoiding probate is accomplished through estate planning. The following are just some of the ways you can use your estate plan to avoid probate:
Living trust. A living trust is a trust you set up while you’re alive. The assets contained in the trust go to your beneficiaries on your death, without having to go through probate. If you make the trust a revocable living trust, you’re able to change its terms or even revoke at any time you want. Revoking a trust means ending or terminating it.
Jointly owned property. When the property is jointly owned, and one of the joint owners dies, the other joint owner or owners get ownership of the property. This is done automatically, so you don’t have to put jointly owned property through the probate process in order to transfer ownership.
Transfer-on-death (TOD) or payable-on-death (POD). TOD or POD documents let you transfer certain types of property to a named beneficiary on your death. For example, with the proper forms or deeds, such as a beneficiary deed for real estate, you can name a TOD or POD beneficiary for real property, stocks and bonds, and your motor vehicle.
Our Springfield Probate Lawyers Are Here to Help
There are many ways you can avoid having your estate’s assets go through the probate process. Contact us today to speak with one of our Springfield probate lawyers. We can help you to set up an estate plan that meets all your needs.