If you own any assets of value that you will want to be passed on to your heirs, you should make it a point to avoid probate at all costs. Probate is a process supervised by the courts, involving lawyers and other high-priced professionals. It can be a lengthy and costly ordeal. But how can you ensure your heirs get their inheritance and are not forced to pay burdensome fees and taxes? We will talk about this below.
What Is Probate and Why Should You Avoid It?
The probate process starts with the inventorying of all assets owned by the deceased and appraising those assets. Once the estate is appraised, any debts are paid off upfront before anything can be disbursed. Once this is complete, the will (if there is one) is validated by the court. In some cases, if the estate’s value exceeds a certain threshold, probate is mandatory even if there is no will.
After the will is validated and the debts are paid, the process isn’t over yet. The estate must still pay for all court costs, lawyers’ fees, and executors’ fees. Only then can the assets finally be disbursed to the heirs stipulated in the will. But as you can see, much of the estate could already be siphoned off from various costs and fees. Probate can be very expensive depending on the size of the estate and any complications. Additionally, the probate process could take anywhere from months to years.
How Can a Living Trust Prevent Probate?
Anyone who owns assets and wants those assets passed down to loved ones should consider creating a living trust. A living trust enables an individual to transfer ownership of their assets to a trustee (themselves). This means they still retain control over their assets until they pass but do not technically own it. After death, a successor trustee named in the trust will take over. That person will then transfer ownership of trustee assets to those stipulated in the trust, allowing the estate to avoid probate on those assets as only a deceased’s property goes through the probate system.
Creating a living trust is almost as easy as creating a will, but it might make sense to hire trust lawyers in Los Angeles to ensure you are in full compliance with California law regarding living trusts.