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How to Avoid Probate

Your guide on understanding and avoiding probate, including ancillary probate, from jointly titling assets, to making accounts payable on death (POD), to establishing and funding a revocable living trust. Or, if you've been appointed to serve as the personal representative of a loved one's estate, then learn the steps necessary to complete probate and the fees and costs of probate proceedings.
  1. How to Obtain Probate Records (63)
  2. Overview of Florida Probate and Florida Probate Avoidance (10)
  3. U.S. Intestacy Succession Laws (8)

What is Probate?
Probate is the court-supervised process of locating and determining the value of a deceased person's assets, paying the deceased person's final bills and taxes, and then distributing what's left to the deceased person's heirs.

When is Probate Necessary?
A frequent question I'm asked as an estate planning attorney is "When is probate really necessary?" As with many estate planning questions, the answer depends on many different factors. Here you will find a list of the reasons why an estate will need to be probated.

How Much Does Probate Cost?
If you don't have an estate plan or have failed to completely fund your Revocable Living Trust, then your loves ones will be faced with probating some or all of your assets. The overall cost of probate will vary depending upon the type and value of the property that's being probated.

How Long Will Probate Take?
One of the first questions I'm asked when I sit down with the Personal Representative of a new estate is "How long is probate going to take?" The answer depends upon many factors.

Why Does Probate Take So Long?
For many estates probate can take from several months to several years to complete. Find out why.

The Three Hassles of Probate
Probate is usually easy to avoid, and yet many people don't do anything to avoid it. Here you will learn about three reasons why probate is such a hassle and should be avoided.

Top 4 Reasons to Avoid Probate
Over the years I've heard and read the comments about why probate "really isn't that bad" and doesn't "cost that much" or "take too long." But usually these comments come from someone who has never had to deal with probate, and over the years I've been convinced that in reality most people should try to avoid probate. Here you'll find the top four reasons why.

4 Ways to Avoid Probate
Avoiding probate really isn't that difficult if you have the right tools and information. Learn the only four ways to avoid probate and what may or may not work for you.

What is a Payable on Death, or POD, Account?
Payable on death accounts, also known as POD accounts for short, are a popular way to avoid probate. Learn what a payable on death account is, who can establish a payable on death account, and what should be considered before you decide to establish one.

What is a Transfer on Death, or TOD, Account?
Transfer on death accounts, also known as TOD accounts for short, are a popular way to avoid probate. Learn what a transfer on death account is, who can establish a transfer on death account, and what should be considered before you decide to establish one.

Using Joint Accounts and Payable on Death Accounts to Avoid Probate
There are two common and simple ways to avoid probate: using joint accounts and using payable on death accounts, also called transfer on death accounts.

How Does a Revocable Living Trust Avoid Probate?
Another common way to avoid probate is to establish and fund a Revocable Living Trust.

Avoiding Probate By Adding Your Children to Your Deed - Good or Bad Idea?
Many people believe that adding their children's names to the deed for their home is a good way to avoid probate of the home after death. But not so fast - adding your children to your deed should only be considered after understanding all of the problems that can occur after doing so.

How to Use a TOD Deed or Beneficiary Deed to Avoid Probate
How a transfer on death (or TOD) deed or affidavit, also called a beneficiary deed or affidavit, can be used to avoid probate is fairly straightforward. Learn how this type of deed or affidavit works here.

What is Ancillary Probate?
Owning real estate or tangible personal property in several different states will pose a unique challenge when planning your estate. This is because the laws of the state where the property is physically located will govern what will happen to it after you die, not the laws of the state where you live at the time of your death. This, in turn, will lead to ancillary probate.

How to Avoid Ancillary Probate
Ancillary probate will be necessary in many states if you own real estate located outside of your home state or tangible personal property, such as a car or boat, that is registered outside of your home state. Nonetheless, there are several ways to avoid ancillary probate of your out of state property. Learn how to avoid ancillary probate here.

What Happens Without a Last Will and Testament?
If you fail to make a Last Will and Testament before you die, then your estate will be divided up based on the intestacy laws of your state as well as the intestacy laws of any other state where you own real estate. And what about your minor children? A judge will decide who they will live with and who will control their inheritance. And yet it's easy to avoid all of this, learn how.

How to Determine Where to Open a Probate Estate
If a person dies owning any assets titled in his or her sole name or as a tenant in common, then chances are the assets will need to be probated. But once it has been determined that probate will be necessary, how do you determine where to file for probate? Here you will find the general rules that govern where a probate estate should be opened.

Step by Step Guide to Opening a Probate Estate
In general, there are eight steps that should be taken in order to open a probate estate with the appropriate state court, but some of the steps can be skipped if the decedent didn't leave a Last Will and Testament or left a pile of papers to sort through. Learn what these steps are and how someone gets appointed to serve as a Personal Representative/Executor.

Probate Checklist - How to Open a Probate Estate
In conjunction with my step by step guide on how to open a probate estate, here is a convenient checklist of the 8 steps involved in opening a probate estate.

Step by Step Guide - How to Probate an Estate
Most people have little experience dealing with what happens after their loved one dies and they get appointed as Personal Representative/Executor to settle the estate. The purpose of this guide is to provide a general overview of the 6 steps required to probate an estate.

Probate Checklist - How to Probate an Estate
In conjunction with my step by step guide on how to probate an estate, here is a convenient checklist of the 6 steps involved in settling an estate.

Who Gets a Copy of a Will After the Testator Dies?
When someone dies, you've probably seen in the movies or on TV or read in a book about "the reading of the Will." Unfortunately, this is purely a theatrical device designed to create drama in a fictional story. Today there is no legal requirement that a Will be read to anyone. Instead, the estate attorney has to determine who should be sent a copy of the Testator's Will.

How to Obtain a Copy of a Deceased Person's Will
If you're looking for a copy of a deceased person's last will and testament, then here are the steps that you need to take to locate it.

What is an Estate Lawyer and What Does an Estate Lawyer Do?
An estate lawyer is an attorney who, through years of mentoring, continuing legal education and experience, understands how to advise Personal Representatives/Executors and estate beneficiaries on settling all of the affairs of a deceased person.

What is a Probate Judge and What Does a Probate Judge Do?
A probate judge is the judicial official who is in charge of overseeing all aspects of probate estates in his or her jurisdiction.

What is a Personal Representative?
A Personal Representative, also referred to as an Executor/Executrix or Administrator in some jurisdictions, is the fiduciary put in charge of settling a deceased person's estate.

Do I Have to Serve as a Personal Representative, Trustee or Guardian?
What if your uncle has named you to serve as the Personal Representative of his estate, the successor Trustee of his trust or his preneed Guardian? And what if your uncle becomes incapacitated or dies and his attorney contacts you to let you know about your appointment, but your really don't want to serve or simply don't have the time? What next?

How Much Does a Personal Representative Get Paid?
If you've been appointed to serve as the Personal Representative or Executor of an estate, then in most cases you'll be entitled to get paid for the services you provide on behalf of the estate. How much you'll receive and when you'll receive it depends upon many factors.

Overview of Types of Property Ownership
There are only three ways to own property - in your individual name, in joint names with others, or by contract rights. Here you'll find a summary of what each type of ownership means for you and your family.

What Are Non Probate Assets and Are They Included in Your Estate?
Non probate assets are simply assets that won't need to be probated after you die. But will they be included in the value of your estate for estate tax purposes? Find out.

What Are Probate Assets?
When a deceased person's estate owns certain types of assets, called probate assets, then the estate will be subject to a probate court proceeding in order to get the probate assets out of the deceased person's name and into the names of the rightful heirs. Here you will find a description of the three different types of probate assets.

Who Pays Off a Deceased Person's Debts?
If your loved one has died and the medical and credit card bills have started piling up, then you'll need to understand who will be responsible for paying off all of these debts and in what amounts. Learn who has to pay and how much.

How Are a Deceased Person's Debts Handled Before and During Probate?
If your loved one has died and a probate estate will be required, then you'll need to understand how your loved one's final bills and other debts will be handled before and during the probate process. Learn who will be responsible for paying the bills and when.

Is Your Last Will and Testament Valid?
When it comes to creating a Last Will and Testament, it's very important for you to observe all of the formalities required by the laws of your state in order to make the Last Will legally valid and binding on your heirs.

What Documents Are Needed After Someone Dies?
After someone dies, the surviving family members will need to gather up all of the decedent's important papers. This will give the family members and/or attorney who will be assisting with settling the decedent's final affairs all of the pertinent information needed to complete the settlement process. Here's the list of documents that will be...

What is a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
If someone dies due to the negligent, reckless, or deliberate behavior of someone else, then the surviving family members should be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Learn what a wrongful death lawsuit is, who can file one, and what types of damages can be collected.

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