When someone passes away, their estate will likely be subjected to a legal process known as probate. If there are no questions as to the validity of someone’s estate documentation or other concerns that would need to be resolved by the court, probate primarily consists of estate administration. Generally speaking, this just means that the estate executor takes inventory of all the assets that that person owns. They then refer to the deceased’s will or state law to distribute those assets to heirs and beneficiaries.
Naturally, this can be difficult for family members who are left behind. It’s an emotional time. It can be complicated. There may be disagreements. What are some things you can do as you make your estate plan to make the probate of your estate easier for your loved ones?
Talk to your family in advance
Perhaps one of the most important things to do is simply to talk to your family about your wishes and to listen to them express what they want or expect. A lot of disputes happen because of a lack of communication. Otherwise, your loved ones may misinterpret or have no idea as to what your wishes are. It’s easier if you express what you want beforehand, eliminating this confusion and a source of many disputes.
Jointly share major assets
Some complications also arise with shared assets, such as vacation homes. It may be wise to jointly own these with adult children before your passing. This way, the assets will transfer into their name. It is less likely that heirs will disagree about whether or not to sell those assets.
Using payable on death accounts
Another tactic that is similar is to alter some of your financial accounts so that they are payable on death. For instance, a POD bank account will allow you to list a beneficiary. This means that the account will skip probate entirely. The beneficiary just gets access to that account when you pass away instead.
Leaving a comprehensive plan
Overall, planning in advance is what makes probate easier. If you let your family know what the plan is in advance, it will act as a guidebook. Be sure that you know exactly what legal steps to take to set up a plan that will be both effective and legally enforceable as you move forward.