3 Ways You Can Help Your Loved Ones Avoid Probate After You Pass Away

Having a loved one pass away is difficult enough to go through without adding the further, unneeded stress of waiting for an estate to clear probate. Probate is the legal proceedings that validate a deceased person's will. Until the will is deemed valid by a judge, everything included in a person's estate is virtually untouchable. This process can take a long period of time, especially if someone contests the will. Here are three ways you can help your loved ones avoid probate after you pass away.

1. Payable on death accounts.

One way that you can ensure that your loved ones have access to your bank accounts immediately following your death is to name a beneficiary who you want the account to be payable to upon your death. The payable on death account can have more than one beneficiary, and you can designate how much of the remaining balance will go to each of them.

The one thing you have to remember about your account is that it will be distributed as you stated on the payable on death form - regardless of what your will says. So, if you ever change your mind about who should get the money in your bank account, you need to be sure to change the form with the bank as well.

2. Gifts.

Another way you can help your loved ones avoid probate is to gift them your assets before you pass away. This can be tricky though as, unless you have been diagnosed with a fatal illness, you don't really know when you will pass away. No one really wants to give their home away or all of their things and end up living for many years afterward. And you also have to think about the gift tax that you will incur from the IRS for giving away your property and assets without getting paid properly for it.

However, if you know you will be passing away soon and you don't have the energy or ability to do anything else to help your loved ones avoid probate, gifting your property and financial assets is still a smart move. After all, if you have a terminal illness, you likely aren't going to care about what the IRS is going to charge you or your estate next tax season.

3. Joint ownership of property.

If you are concerned about your spouse or a companion getting kicked out of your home after you have passed away, you can make them a joint owner of the property. This enables the person to automatically gain ownership of the home when you die. The property will not go through probate, therefore the spouse or companion won't be thrown out by any bitter family members who think the house belongs to them.

There are several ways you can do joint ownership: joint tenancy with right of survivorship, tenancy by the entirety, and community property with right of survivorship. They are all similar, but tenancy by entirety can only be used by married couples, while you can name anyone for joint tenancy with right of survivorship. Also, the community property with right of survivorship can only be used by married couples in certain states.

For more information, contact Davis & Mathis or a similar firm.