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How to shield your estate from the probate process

Probate is the process of proving your will, administering your estates, and disseminating the assets you own to your beneficiaries. It sounds simple and possibly advisable -- but in reality probate is a slog. It can be difficult to get through the probate process without months, or even years, passing. This is why it is often best for a grantor to do everything he or she can to avoid the probate process. Or, to put it another way, to package their assets in a way that most of their estate doesn't go through the probate process.

So how can this be achieved? There are a few simple steps that a grantor can take to protect his or her asset from the probate process:

  • A joint property ownership agreement is one key way to pass your property on to someone without it entering probate. This agreement automatically passes a piece of property on to a living joint owner when the other owner passes away. As a result, the property is no longer subject to the probate process.
  • Similarly, you can name death beneficiaries for your accounts. So your bank accounts, your 401(k) accounts, and your other retirement accounts can all be passed on to your death beneficiary when you pass away.
  • Gifting is also an easy way to make sure your assets aren't in probate. By giving your assets away to someone else, they are inherently no longer your property. As such, probate will not be able to deal with them.

Source: FindLaw, "Avoiding the Probate Process," Accessed Oct. 25, 2017

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