For many, the word “probate” carries a negative connotation. It conjures up images of court proceedings where one’s private life is placed on public display. Others see probate as placing the authority for distributing an individual’s estate in the hands of a judge that may not understand that individual’s unique family circumstances; circumstances that influenced how that individual wanted their estate distributed after their death. Some may see probate as an indication that an individual did not create a legally sound estate plan that protects their legacy from the court system.

Probate is a legal procedure where a probate court manages the distribution of an individual’s assets. Some of the common reasons probate occurs include descendants questioning the validity of a will, claims against the estate’s assets, and the need to re-deed land and change the name on various bank and investment accounts from the deceased individual to the proper beneficiary.

So, how does one avoid probate? One of the simplest ways to avoid probate is to create a revocable living trust. When you create a trust, you create a legal entity that can hold property. This takes assets out of your name and places them in the name of the revocable living trust. You can name trust beneficiaries and trustees that oversee the management of the trust. You can include yourself as a beneficiary and trustee. By properly funding your revocable living trust, along with good financial planning, you can save your family the heartache of fighting for your legacy in the courtroom.

For additional reading:

Maintaining Your Estate Plan

The Heartache of Poor Estate Planning

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