Law Articles

Is Probate the Only Way to Settle an Estate in America?

By October 30, 2023 No Comments

Looking back at the accomplishments of your life, it’s easy to start wondering about the future. What will you leave behind for the next generation, and how will you continue to care for them after you’re gone? To answer those questions, Waldron Law Offices, Ltd. would like to fully explain the probate process in America, as well as the nuances in the Twin Cities Metro Area.

What we’d like to highlight most are the alternatives to traditional probate procedures in Minnesota that can benefit your family. The physical assets that you leave behind are only part of your legacy. By following specific steps, you can ease your family’s burden in a more timely and efficient manner that reflects your devotion to their care.

By looking into alternatives like living trusts, joint ownerships, or designated beneficiaries, you can meet your family’s needs even after you’re gone. For personalized guidance specific to your family, call Waldron Law Offices today.

The Probate Process in Minnesota

Probate is generally considered a time-consuming process, and for good reason. It is the delicate untangling of assets and debts accumulated over a lifetime, and it should be handled with the time and care that it deserves.

The Will first needs to be authenticated before the court will allow any of your assets to move. Then, an Executor of the Will must be officially declared. Your Will should tell the court whom to appoint to manage your affairs, like a trusted friend or family estate lawyer. If your wishes aren’t expressed here, the court may choose its own Executor who may not share your views.

Next, a detailed inventory and appraisal of your assets will be conducted to determine their current worth. Often, assets must be identified, located, and then valued officially. This step is why the timeline for probate matters can be so long. Each life is unique, and how well they plan for the end can influence how quickly their families are cared for after they’re gone.

The probate court takes the current standings of your assets and uses those to pay off any outstanding debts. Your beneficiaries are then given what remains according to your Will. The process is often expensive for grieving families, especially if prolonged legal proceedings or appraisals are necessary.

Moreover, probate proceedings are a matter of public record, so anyone can access the documents. This can include the details of your assets, your debts, the names of your beneficiaries, and what each received. For people who value their privacy, this is yet another reason to seek alternatives to probate. The following options can be used to not only speed up the process of getting finances to your loved ones but they can also ensure your private family matters stay private.

Alternatives to Probate: Living Trusts

A living trust, or a revocable trust, allows a person to place their assets into a trust while they’re still alive. When they die, all these assets bypass probate and are directly transferred to their beneficiaries. This means property and bank accounts don’t need to go through all the steps outlined above. Instead, the person or organization named in your trust becomes kind of a co-owner who only receives assets when you say so.

You could give your family access to these assets immediately after your death or under any other circumstances you choose. Living trusts are great for designating funds for specific purposes, like college tuition, or saving them for milestones, like a future wedding day.

Alternatives to Probate: Joint Ownership

Owning assets together with your spouse or children means that they automatically inherit your share upon your death. Real estate, bank accounts, and vehicles with two owners don’t need to follow the probate process for inheritance. The rights of survivorship should be clearly defined in all of these contracts, so ask our estate planning attorney if you’re unsure of this detail.

Alternatives to Probate: Beneficiary Designations

Certain financial accounts, like life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and payable-on-death bank accounts, allow owners to name beneficiaries. When the account holder dies, these assets bypass probate and go directly to their family.

Many use life insurance to quickly cover their family’s finances while the rest of their assets go through probate. It can help ensure your passing isn’t a financial burden on your family as well as an emotional one. This is particularly useful for older individuals who still provide for generations of loved ones.

Benefits of Avoiding Probate

We’ve touched on a few reasons why avoiding probate can benefit your family, but let’s quickly define them here.

  • Speed: Avoiding probate often results in a faster distribution of assets to your beneficiaries. This can be crucial during difficult times when financial stability is needed.
  • Cost Savings: Probate can be an expensive process, especially if investigations or evaluations are prolonged. Bypassing it can save on court fees, attorney fees, and other related costs.
  • Privacy: Probate records are public. Utilizing these alternatives ensures that the details of your estate, your beneficiaries, and your wishes remain confidential.
  • Simplicity: By planning and employing alternatives, you can reduce the bureaucracy and legal burdens on your loved ones after your passing.
  • Control: Probate alternatives like living trusts allow you to maintain greater control over how and when your assets are distributed.

Remember, while avoiding probate offers many benefits, it’s crucial to consult with our estate planning attorney to ensure all decisions align with your specific needs and goals.

Call an Estate Planning Attorney Today

Several methods exist to bypass or expedite the probate process, but the best approach depends on individual circumstances. Your life of accomplishments is unique, and your goals will determine how complex your estate plan is. If you’re like most people, you’ll want to ensure your family is cared for as quickly as possible. By looking into alternatives to the probate process, you can care for your loved ones quickly and efficiently.

By consulting with our estate planning attorney at Waldron Law Offices, you can receive tailored advice for your unique needs. Call our Wayzata office today at (952) 471-0940 and plan for a better future.

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