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When is it possible to avoid the probate process?

When it comes to drafting an estate plan or settling the estate of a loved one, many people have the same question – when is it possible to avoid the probate process? Probate is the legal process of distributing a person's estate according to his or her wishes to appropriate beneficiaries. It can be a costly and lengthy process to navigate.

People often hope to avoid probate because it saves them time and money. There are times when it is possible to avoid this process, but only in specific circumstances and situations. It may be helpful for you to understand what probate accomplishes, whether you can avoid it and what to expect if you have to walk through it.

Getting out of probate

One of the primary ways that a person could avoid the probate process is by transferring assets in specific ways. This saves time and money, but it can also help a person avoid the legal stress of the probate process. There are four specific ways to transfer estate assets outside of probate, and they include the following:

  • Designating death beneficiaries – With some assets, it is possible to name a person as a death beneficiary. Upon death, these assets would transfer directly to the beneficiary without the need to go through probate.
  • Establishing joint property ownership – Establishing joint property ownership means that two people own the property together. This allows one party to have right of survivorship, which means that when the other person passes, he or she already owns the property.
  • Giving property as gifts – When a person gives away his or her property to loved ones or other beneficiaries, it is no longer part of the estate. This means these assets will not go through probate.
  • Setting up revocable living trusts – With this type of trust, a person passes assets to another person to hold. The original owner has the right to revoke the trust during is his or her lifetime. 

If you believe that any of these are the right options for your estate, you would be wise to consider tax implications and other effects of transferring property in these ways. It is helpful to seek a complete evaluation of the entire estate before making any choices.

Whether you are drafting an estate plan or settling the estate of a deceased family member, you do not have to walk through probate alone. You may find great benefit in working with an experienced Delaware estate planning attorney.

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