8833 South Redwood Road
Suite C
West Jordan, UT 84088

Call For Free Consultation

(801) 676-5506


Call Us

Avoiding the Probate Process

The probate process can be long and costly, taking months and sometimes years to resolve. The longer it takes, the more it will cost, leaving potential heirs with less than the deceased may have intended. This is really why many people engage in estate planning. But for these and other reasons, most people will try to avoid probate in any way possible.

Transferring assets outside of the probate process can not only save the estate a lot of time and expense, but can also help loved ones avoid years of legal hassle. There are four general ways to pass on your property and avoid the probate system:

  • Joint Property Ownership
  • Death Beneficiaries
  • Revocable Living Trusts
  • Gifts

Avoiding the Probate Process

Joint Property Ownership to Avoid Probate

Jointly owned property with the “right of survivorship” avoids the probate process for one very simple reason: upon death, the deceased joint owner no longer owns the property and it passes to the living joint owner. There are several ways to do this, and the chosen method will depend on what a particular state recognizes.

To create any of these forms of joint ownership with a right of survivorship, states typically require a written document that sets out the joint ownership relationship, the property that is jointly held, and the right of survivorship. Here are the most common forms of joint property with a right of survivorship:

  • Joint Tenancy with a Right of Survivorship: as the name suggests, you take property as “joint tenants” and upon the death of a joint tenant, the surviving tenant takes the deceased tenant’s portion.
  • Tenancy by the Entirety: this is a form of ownership only available to married couples (and some same-sex couples in a few states). It works in much the same way as a joint tenancy with a right of survivorship, in that effectively upon the death of one spouse, the living spouse takes the deceased spouse’s portion.
  • Community Property: in community property states, married couples can hold property as community property with the right of survivorship. It has the same effect upon the death of one spouse as a tenancy by the entirety, where the surviving spouse takes full ownership of the property.

Have Death Beneficiaries

Many types of financial assets and instruments allow you to designate a beneficiary upon your death. Upon your death, these assets become the property of whomever you designate as the beneficiary, are no longer a part of your estate, and thus avoid probate entirely. Here are some of the most common financial assets that allow you to do this:

  • Payable on Death (POD) Accounts: as the name suggests, POD accounts are simply accounts with an instruction that upon your death, the account shall be inherited by a beneficiary that you name. They are extremely simple to setup, with most banks simply requiring that you fill out a form naming the beneficiary. The beneficiary simply shows up to the bank with the proper identification and collects the account upon your death.
  • Retirement Accounts: an increasingly popular option to avoid probate is the use of retirement accounts, specifically IRA and 401(k) accounts. When you establish these accounts, you will be asked to name a beneficiary of the account upon your death. As a single person, you are free to name whomever you want, but be aware that as a married person, your spouse may inherently have a right to some or all of the money in a retirement account.
  • Transfer on Death Registrations: many states allow you to transfer securities (stocks, bonds, brokerage accounts) as well as vehicles without going through probate. Much like POD accounts, you will sign a registration statement that declares who you want your securities or vehicles to pass to upon your death.

Revocable Living Trusts Avoid Probate

A revocable living trust occurs when you transfer property to someone else (the trustee) to hold it for your benefit, but you reserve the right to revoke the trust. This means that the trustee actually owns the property, but must use it for your benefit under the terms and conditions of the trust.

By giving ownership of the property to the trustee, the property is no longer a part of your estate and can avoid the probate process entirely. You can instruct the trustee that, upon your death, he or she should transfer the property to your family and friends. This effectively transfers property without going through probate.

Trusts are set up in formal documents, much like a will, so make sure that you are complying with your state’s requirements for a trust when setting one up.

Gifting to Avoid Probate

Finally, one of the most obvious but often overlooked ways to avoid probate is to simply give your property away before your death. This requires a certain amount of planning and forethought, and even the best plans may be thwarted by unseen circumstances. As a result, you should generally only consider using gifts to avoid probate on smaller, less valuable assets. Also be aware that gift taxes apply if the gift is in excess of a certain amount, so this is typically a good option only if the asset is below the gift tax threshold.

Free Consultation with an Estate Planning Lawyer

If you are here, you probably have an estate planning or probate matter you need help with, call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506

Ascent Law LLC

4.9 stars – based on 67 reviews


Recent Posts

Getting Divorced Later in Life

Successful Lawyers in Utah

Driver Charged with DUI

Partnership

Family Partnerships

Family Law and Abortion

Share this Article

Michael Anderson

About the Author

People who want a lot of Bull go to a Butcher. People who want results navigating a complex legal field go to a Lawyer that they can trust. That’s where I come in. I am Michael Anderson, an Attorney in the Salt Lake area focusing on the needs of the Average Joe wanting a better life for him and his family. I’m the Lawyer you can trust. I grew up in Utah and love it here. I am a Father to three, a Husband to one, and an Entrepreneur. I understand the feelings of joy each of those roles bring, and I understand the feeling of disappointment, fear, and regret when things go wrong. I attended the University of Utah where I received a B.A. degree in 2010 and a J.D. in 2014. I have focused my practice in Wills, Trusts, Real Estate, and Business Law. I love the thrill of helping clients secure their future, leaving a real legacy to their children. Unfortunately when problems arise with families. I also practice Family Law, with a focus on keeping relationships between the soon to be Ex’s civil for the benefit of their children and allowing both to walk away quickly with their heads held high. Before you worry too much about losing everything that you have worked for, before you permit yourself to be bullied by your soon to be ex, before you shed one more tear in silence, call me. I’m the Lawyer you can trust.