Writing a will is a reliable way to escape a costly and time-consuming probate process and preserve the power to endorse your wishes when you’re gone.
At its most basic level probate is simply the procedure for establishing in court that a will is valid. Drafting a thorough will is usually enough to avoid a lengthy probate procedure.
To establish probate the judge must be satisfied with the following:
- that decedent knew what he was doing when he signed the will
- that the signature is authentic
- that the will was properly witnessed
- and that the will was never modified or cancelled
?What makes your last will invalid?
Below we listed the most important components to draft a proper and valid will so intestate and a lengthy probate procedure can be avoided:
- Properly sign the document with at least 2 witness signatures.
- Date your will. If you make a codicil, or amendment, be sure to provide the date it was signed.
- Assign your executor.
- Assign your guardian or trustee of trust if you have one.
- Inform your beneficiaries and executors about where your will is located. If your will is never found, it never existed.
?How-to avoid probate?
Here are 4 ways to avoid probate court:
- Get rid of all your property – without any property you will not have an estate that needs to be probated.
- Use joint ownership with rights of survivorship or tenancy by adding a joint owner to a bank or investment accounts, or to your deed for real estate.
- Adding a joint owner to an account or deed will be taxable and must be reported to the IRS
- Be sure you are clear that the bank account is owned as joint tenant with rights of survivorship. Leaving your property to your spouse by right of survivorship or tenancy by the entirety will mean that your spouse will be free to do whatever he or she wants.
- Use beneficiary designations – you can also avoid probate through the use of beneficiary designations to a trust, IRA or retirement account. In some states you can designate your accounts to beneficiaries, such as a POD, “Payable on Death” account.
- Use a revocable living trust – a living trust is a written agreement, which protects you in three stages of life:
- when you are alive
- if you are mentally incapacitated
- when you die
After you sign your trust the most important thing to remember is to title your estate and property in the name of your trust.