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  • Writer's pictureSarah Morris Ocampo

How to avoid probate when you pass away?

Updated: May 15

Probate is a legal process that can be both time-consuming and costly. Without an estate plan, the court follows state laws to distribute assets, often leading to unintended consequences. In this blog post, we explore a real-life example of the complications that arise when someone passes away without a proper plan in place. Through this cautionary tale, we highlight the significance of having an estate plan and the benefits of avoiding probate.

A Story of an Unintended Heir

In this case, a gentleman passed away without an estate plan, leaving his assets susceptible to probate. The absence of a will caused significant complications for his loved ones. According to Nevada law, his 90-year-old mother, who resided in Mexico and had dementia, was deemed the legal heir. Despite having six other siblings, they had to relinquish their claims as the law prioritized the mother's rights.

The Adverse Consequences

The unintended consequence of this situation was that the gentleman's wishes were not honored. His money and possessions went solely to his elderly mother, who was unable to understand or benefit from them. This outcome not only frustrated the deceased's desires but also created financial and logistical challenges for the family.

Navigating the Probate Process

Getting through the probate process can be difficult and time-consuming. The family's estate counsel, in this instance, had to spend more than a year going through the probate process, which resulted in high costs. To manage the procedure, an administrator also needed to be selected. An appropriate estate strategy could have prevented these extra costs and delays.

Gaining Control Through an Estate Plan

Even a simple will would have made a significant difference in this scenario. By expressing his wishes in a will, the gentleman could have ensured that his assets would go to the people he intended, effectively bypassing the unintended heir. Though probate would still have been necessary, the outcome would have aligned with his wishes.

The Power of a Trust

Going beyond a will, having an actual trust would have allowed the gentleman to avoid the probate process altogether. By establishing a trust, he could have directly allocated his assets to the intended beneficiaries. This approach would have saved time, money, and legal complications, as the assets controlled by the trust would seamlessly transfer to the beneficiaries without court involvement.

Everyone Can Benefit from an Estate Plan

It is crucial to understand that estate planning is not solely for the wealthy. Even individuals with modest estates, such as a house and a few bank accounts, can significantly benefit from having an estate plan in place. An estate plan ensures a smooth transition of assets and minimizes the burden on loved ones during an already difficult time.

The instance as mentioned earlier, is a reminder of how crucial it is to prevent probate by using appropriate estate planning. People can ensure their wishes are honored, their loved ones are cared for, and needless financial and emotional strains are avoided by establishing a will or trust.

An estate plan is essential for safeguarding your legacy and supporting your loved ones during their time of loss, regardless of your level of wealth.

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