How to Avoid Probate

When a loved one passes away in Massachusetts and has left a will, their estate must go through a court-managed proceeding called probate where the will is verified, a personal representative is appointed, and the assets are recorded and then distributed according to the will. As estate planning professionals, we usually assist clients in avoiding probate altogether because probate costs money and takes a good deal of time. That means you leave less money to your heirs and it takes longer for your assets to get to the people you care about.

The cost and duration of probate depend on many factors, but typically most estates are settled within 12 to 18 months if there’s no litigation involved. Probate expenses include executor’s fees, attorney’s fees, accounting fees, court fees, appraisal costs, and surety bonds.

Another reason to avoid probate is that the contents of your will become public knowledge, which means anyone can show up at the courthouse and review your will.

Create a Living Trust

A revocable living trust can be used to avoid probate. A trust holds legal title to property for the benefit of another person (“beneficiary”). The person who creates the trust (“the grantor”) chooses a manager (sometimes themselves), known as the trustee, to manage the assets in order to protect them. Think of it like a box where you can hold your assets for your benefit during your lifetime, and thereafter for the benefit of another person. The major advantages of a revocable trust: (1) avoid probate, saving you both time and money, (2) preserve your privacy since, unlike wills, trusts aren’t public documents, and (3) set up a plan to handle your assets and income if you become incapacitated.

Joint Ownership of Property

Joint tenancy is when two or more people are owners of the property or an asset. If one of the owners should pass, the survivors inherit the property.

In Massachusetts, married couples are able to file tenancy by entirety wherein the surviving spouse becomes the owner. As ownership automatically transfers, it removes the need for any probate processes.

Name Beneficiaries on Accounts

By naming a beneficiary to your assets, you’re in control. You’re able to name who will benefit from assets such as life insurance, annuities, brokerage, pension, and retirement accounts at your time of death. Naming beneficiaries on bank accounts makes them payable-on-death accounts; designating beneficiaries on stocks, brokerage accounts, or bonds makes them transfer-on-death accounts.

It’s important to make note of whom you have assigned to which account as this may change through the years and can easily be updated as needed.

Work with a Knowledgeable Woburn Probate Attorney

We can help you navigate through the probate process, help you avoid delays, and ensure that the estate is administered appropriately. Our team will work with you throughout the process to make it as easy for you as possible. Contact The Heritage Law Center today for a free probate consultation.