What is Probate?
In Arkansas, you need to be 18 or older to write your own will. Unfortunately, many people wait until they’re nearly retired to write their will. So, if a person passes away unexpectedly before they write their will, all their possessions must go through probate, which lengthens and complicates the process. If you are 18 or older, it’s in your best interest to write a will immediately. In an untimely death, your will makes the process easier for your family and the state.
Probate is a complicated process in which a person’s possessions go through the court to determine who receives what. If the person who passed away has a will, the probate process is more straightforward. Since the probate court judge can follow the guidelines and assist the Executor in completing necessary tasks. However, the court makes the final decisions on a deceased person’s possessions without a will.
What Goes Through Probate Court?
Regardless of the presence of a will, most cases go through a probate proceeding. However, the process is simplified when a will from the deceased person details the allocations and beneficiaries. Even though there are ways to avoid probate court (see next section), nearly every case spends some time here because of the following:
- When a beneficiary dies before the giver
- Non-titled property–this covers household items like appliances, furniture, and clothing from the decedent’s estate that may not have any paperwork with it.
- Partner-owned investment property–when the deceased shares property with another landlord (joint tenancy), the process goes through court.
- Sole property ownership–when only the deceased own the property but do not clarify who receives the deeds after their death.
Although issues like these need to go through probate proceedings, you can save your family a lot of time by establishing a trust and will for your retirement accounts, bank or brokerage accounts, and any notes on how you would like to transfer property and remaining assets.
How Do You Avoid Probate?
It is not easy to avoid probate–it requires forethought, proactivity, and planning ahead of time to make your death and the processes that follow simpler for your family. Your family can avoid probate court with the following:
- Items with a beneficiary–personal property avoid probate when a name is listed next to an item.
- Anything listed in a trust–with a living trust, any items you place in there with the beneficiaries name avoid going to court.
- POD or TOD–Pay on Death or Transfer on Death means that any finances transfer to the listed beneficiary.
- Jointly Titled Property–any property between two people on the title goes to the current living owner (typically the surviving spouse).
When you take proactive steps to plan for your loved ones’ lives after you pass, you make the grieving and legal process much easier on them.
Dealing with the death of a loved one is tricky. It becomes more challenging when you must deal with the finances and paperwork that follow. However, when you use a trust and will, you simplify the process for everyone. If you are ready to write a trust and will or need a personal representative, we can help you. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.