You may have heard the phrase “avoid probate” in the context of estate planning, but have no idea what it means or how it is connected to your estate planning process. Many Ohioans want to avoid probate because of the hardships it can cause for their descendants or next of kin, including long delays in dispersing assets to designated heirs. We at the Kroener Hale Law Firm often help people design an estate plan that meets these goals.
The probate process is the judicial method by which your assets are redistributed upon your death. If you have established a will, a court examines it and then decides what assets the parties will receive based on the document. If, however, you have not written up an estate plan, a court will instead disperse your assets according to state law. A lack of a will or any estate plan can result in a drawn out legal process, and can delay dispersal of your assets. Even if you do have a will, a probate process may still require the beneficiaries to spend money on legal fees.
To avoid probate is to circumvent having your assets dealt with by a court. A common way to avoid probate is to establish a living trust. By placing your property and assets in the hands of a trustee, you have already distributed your assets, so there is no need for a judge to disperse the assets on your behalf. It also eliminates probate hearings or trials in which your will is contested.
According to Forbes, you can choose to modify the terms of your trust while you are still alive, or you can surrender control to the trustee entirely. Another option is to name beneficiaries on your bank accounts and investments. Naming a beneficiary allows that person to be paid from your assets without going through probate.
Whichever option you choose can streamline the process of passing on your assets to your heirs while granting you more control over how your assets are dispersed. More information about this topic is available on our webpage.