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3 tips for keeping assets from probate

If you read about trusts online, one of the first things you'll notice is that a lot of people claim that a trust keeps you out of probate. This is actually a very general statement that isn't quite true. Yes, some trusts can keep certain assets out of the probate process, but that doesn't mean the estate itself is kept out of probate. It's not always possible to avoid probate altogether; those working with an estate lawyer can help you understand your options if this is one of your goals. Meanwhile, there are some ways you can keep specific property from probate.

First, as stated, you can hold that property in a revocable living trust. Because you name a trustee and beneficiary for the assets, they are not typically included in probate. One reason to do this is to keep certain details about those assets or worth from public documents.

Second, you can own something in joint tenancy. If you own a piece of property or certain accounts, including a checking account, in joint tenancy with a spouse, then the property automatically transfers to that person upon your death. There is no probate process involved.

Finally, you can name someone as a beneficiary on certain types of assets and those assets will transfer to the beneficiary upon your death. Such assets might include life insurance policies, pension plans, investment accounts and checking or savings accounts.

If you don't fully understand whether something will transfer to your heir or beneficiary automatically, it's a good idea to consult with a professional. If transfer won't be automatic, you'll want to include that asset in your estate plans – and you may want to include it regardless.

Source: FindLaw, "Avoiding Probate FAQs," accessed April 15, 2016

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