The probating of a will or admitting a will to probate is the starting point for administering a decedent’s estate. If a person dies owning assets titled solely in their own name, with no beneficiary designation, the only want to transfer ownership of those assets is through the probate process. Probating an estate involves gathering the assets paying the decedent’s debts and taxes, and expenses of administration, and distributing what is left to the beneficiaries named in the will, or in the absence of a will, according to state law.
Probate administration can be a lengthy and expensive process that can tie up estate assets for months or sometimes years (in more complex cases). Because of this, it’s not surprising that many of our clients want to minimize their relatives’ distress during the months following their departure. If you desire to ease the burden on your family after you die, there are steps you can take to accomplish this.
Depending on our client’s unique situation, we will either work out a plan that will minimize probate or avoid probate altogether. For some of our clients, avoiding probate should be a primary goal in their estate plans, where for others, especially those with moderate means, avoiding probate can be more trouble than going through the process.
WHAT TYPES OF PROPERTY AVOID PROBATE?
Probate assets are those assets that are held only in the decedent’s name; therefore, if you wish to minimize or avoid probate, you will need to arrange your assets accordingly.
Ways to avoid probate are:
- Hold property in a trust
- Jointly title property with another person (with right of survivorship)
- Gift property before you die
- Put payable-on-death designations on bank accounts
- Put transfer-on-death registrations on securities
- Designate beneficiaries on life insurance policies
- Designate beneficiaries on retirement accounts
If you’re concerned about ensuring your loved ones gain access to funds quickly, know that each state has its own set of laws in regards to freezing money in joint bank accounts. The basic lesson to remember: When planning for your estate, speak with an attorney who is well-versed in your state’s law, and make sure that your surviving loved ones have some freeze-proof method of getting hold of money during whatever period of delay that exists in your state, whether it is Maryland or Virginia.
There is no one cookie-cutter approach to estate planning. What may work well for your friend or colleague may not work well for you. Our lawyers are AV® Rated by Martindale-Hubbell and we are included in the selection of Super Lawyers®, which represents no more than 5% of attorneys in the state. With nearly 50 years of combined experience, we’re more than qualified to assist you in the estate planning process.
If you are interested in avoiding probate, we encourage you to contact a Northern Virginia probate attorney from Hale Ball Carlson Baumgartner Murphy, PLC.
Since 1980 the AV-rated law firm of Hale Ball has served the legal needs of individuals and businesses. Our team of attorneys include lawyers named to Super Lawyer and Rising Star lists, as well as attorneys with advanced legal degrees, specialty certifications and lawyers who teach their areas of practice to other lawyers.
Use the contact form on this page to schedule a consultation, or call 703-591-4900.
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Fairfax, VA 22030