It is a common misconception that executing a Last Will and Testament will allow your property to pass to your heirs immediately upon death. Unfortunately, this is not the case. If you have only used a will in your estate plan, your estate will have to undergo the probate process. Probate is the legal proceeding through which a will is validated. It is only after this process is completed that distributions can be made.
What is the problem with probate?
Probate is an age-old process, but, many believe, an inefficient one. Probating a will can take anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years, depending upon the circumstances surrounding the estate. This lengthy process also results in excessive legal fees that often eat away at the principal of the estate. Therefore, many people look to avoid the probate process entirely.
How do you avoid probate?
There are a number of tools you can use help you to avoid the probate process completely. The first of these tools is the beneficiary designation. Most financial accounts allow you to designate a beneficiary when an account is opened or even after. If a beneficiary is chosen prior to the death of the account owner, the proceeds will pass to the designated person without the need for probate.
Another tool that is often used to avoid probate is the trust. Once property is transferred into a trust and a beneficiary (or beneficiaries) is named, the property will automatically transfer upon your death without the need for a legal proceeding.
Another effective way of avoiding the probate process is establishing joint ownership. If there is a joint owner on an account or piece of property, that property will transfer directly to the co-owner upon your death. This can be done on an account by naming a joint owner and on a piece of real property by establishing a joint tenancy or a tenancy by the entirety, which is usually reserved for married couples.
It should also be noted that most states exempt small estates from undergoing the probate process. So, if you can keep your estate small by spending down or making gifts while you are alive, your heirs might benefit in the long run.
If you have any questions relating to what will happen to your property in the event of your incapacity or death you should seek the advice of a qualified Las Vegas estate planning attorney today.