By Thacker Sleight
Suppose you have not taken steps to protect your assets through estate planning. In that case, the probate court can and will determine what happens to your home, money, and personal property after your death.
The way that the probate court decides to divide and distribute your hard-earned assets may be completely different from what you had intended.
Probating an estate in court can be expensive and time-consuming and can become a matter of public record to which virtually anyone may have access.
The simplest way to avoid probate is to have a trust. A trust is a legal document in which you transfer assets—such as your home, bank accounts, investment accounts, and other essential items that are titled in your name – into the name of your trust.
Think of the trust as a corporation – one you create and run as its president, by having your trust own your assets instead of having those assets in your name. This means your trust documents will control your assets’ distribution after your death, not the probate court.
To be clear, if a person dies owning a home or bank account in his or her name, no one can do anything with the house or the bank account until the probate court appoints someone after a court hearing.
However, if a person has a trust, there is no need for the probate court to be involved. Among other things, the trust will name a person or persons who will take over managing your assets after your death or if you become unable to manage them. This is called a successor trustee.
The successor trustee does not have to be an expert in law or banking or real estate. The successor trustee has to be someone you feel would be honest and fair and carry out your trust directions. This smooth transition means that the probate court should never have to be involved in your private estate.
Don’t let the courts decide for you; give us a call today.