Did you know that probate is a public process? While you might not be concerned about everyone knowing your business, you might become concerned once you learn that the public nature of probate leads to many family disputes over the disposition of assets. I don’t know anyone who wants their family fighting over their assets after they pass away. Fortunately, you can make secure plans for some or all of your estate that will ensure that your assets will go exactly where they are intended to go.
You can arrange for some or all of your assets to pass to your intended beneficiaries outside of the probate process. An estate planning attorney can help you assess your various assets and make plans for getting them into the proper hands upon the event of your passing with as little room for error as possible. Sometimes, this does mean putting part or all of your estate through probate so that any debts that you may have get settled quickly and your heirs receive your assets promptly.
A will and the probate process that goes along with it are essential parts of any estate plan. That said, there are other elements of a comprehensive estate plan that you can use to transfer assets directly to beneficiaries outside of the probate process. Some assets, such as life insurance policies and retirement plans are already set up to provide benefits directly to named beneficiaries upon your passing. If you have these types of assets, check to make sure that you have named the correct beneficiaries on each of them and that the beneficiaries are named appropriately, according to the terms and conditions of each asset.
If some of your assets are bank accounts or brokerage accounts, ask the institutions which hold those accounts whether you can add “payable on death” or “transfer on death” designations to them. If so, consider adding them to your accounts so that they can pass directly to the designated beneficiaries. These designations are available in many states and at many different financial institutions.
In some cases, you may be able to have your home pass to your spouse or children outside of probate. This is not an available or appropriate option for everyone, and it is not a good idea to retitle any asset without being certain that it is the right thing to do because it cannot be undone. A Kansas estate planning attorney can help you decide whether titling your home as a tenancy by the entirety or a joint tenancy with rights of survivorship would be advantageous for you and your family. Sometimes, tax considerations, the risk of exposing the assets to claims of creditors, or other factors may make it better to have your home and other assets pass to your beneficiaries through the probate process.
Another estate planning strategy that might enable you to pass assets to your beneficiaries outside of probate is the living or revocable trust. Living trusts are a good estate planning tool for people with sizeable estates, so consult with an estate planning attorney to determine whether a living or revocable trust would make sense for you. This estate planning tool lets you use a single document to manage all of your assets and gives you the freedom to modify the plan for their disposition as you see fit.
If you have Kansas estate planning questions, Kansas Estate Planning Attorney Thomas McDowell can help you. Please call our office today, at (316) 633-4322 to make an appointment for your initial consultation.