Avoiding ProbateWhen you hear the term probate chances are it brings to mind an experience which you or someone you know has had while going through this process.  Often, people who go through probate find it to be cumbersome, lengthy, and expensive.  For these reasons, many people would choose to avoid having to go through probate in order to settle their loved one’s estate.  The good news is that there are ways to plan for your estate which may allow your beneficiaries to bypass probate.

Essentially, probate is the legal process by which a person’s estate is distributed to the beneficiaries of the estate.  Avoiding probate is possible by finding ways to accomplish what probate does, naming assets, paying debts, and paying beneficiaries, before the probate process begins.  This can be achieved through either transferring estate assets before or at the time of death.  Fortunately, in Michigan, there are several options available for transferring assets which may dispense with the need for probate.

One option for Michigan residents is to use a living trust. A living trust is a trust created by a person while they are alive where the creator usually serves as the trustee. The creator can receive payment from the trust as a beneficiary while they are alive and usually retains the power to make changes to the trust at their discretion.  When the creator of the trust dies, whatever has been placed in the trust will not have to go through probate in order to be passed to the trust beneficiaries.

Another alternative means to transfer ownership of property to another person without the burden and expense of probate is through joint ownership of property.   By owning property with another person or persons in a certain manner, you can ensure that the other owner or owners will get your ownership interest in the property upon your death.  For example, if you own a home with your brother and father and your father dies, you and your brother will automatically get your father’s interest in the home.  This and other forms of property ownership ensure that property interest can be passed to the other owners without having to go through probate.

For those seeking to transfer their bank accounts to another person without going through probate, there is also an option of including a survivorship provision for another named bank account holder.  What this provision will do is allow the contents of your bank account to become the property of any other individuals named on the account without a probate proceeding.  If there is not another person named on the account, there is a payable on death feature which can be added to the account.  This feature allows the account holder to designate a person who is to receive the account contents upon the death of the account holder.  Again, the inclusion of this provision means the account would not be subject to probate.  Payable on death features can also be found on other accounts such as retirement, pension, and stocks and bonds.

For those seeking to avoid probate, there can be alternatives which allow assets to be transferred.  Our office has experienced attorneys who are knowledgeable about probate and the ways it can be avoided.  Please contact us online or by phone if we may be of assistance.

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