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Avoiding Probate

March 31, 2023

By Thomas McCutcheon

I have had two families that I have known for a very long time come in this week with Wills that they wanted to probate. In each case, the parents had already deeded the land and homes that they owned to the children, and all bank accounts were set up in a way that named the children as beneficiaries.

I was able to tell both families that there was no need to pay a lawyer to probate those Wills.

The only time you need to probate a Will, is when you have property to sell that will need a clear title or when you have money or stocks to get that require probate to receive.

If a person doesn’t have land and all of their bank accounts are set up so that the beneficiaries are named, then there may be no reason to go through the expense of hiring a lawyer.

This is especially true if all of the children agree about dividing the furniture and personal property of their parents.

That said, Wills are only good for five years after death, and it’s a lot less expensive to probate a Will than it is to administer an estate without a Will because that requires a bond.

There are often occasions where a parent will own stock through an employee stock ownership program (ESOP) or have other unknown assets, such as a life insurance policy, where an estate will need to be set up so that claims can be filed and the proper party to be paid determined by the court. There certainly are times when tax considerations will persuade one that filing an estate for tax benefits is the smart thing to do.

That said, if someone is careful in their planning, they can certainly set up their estate in such a way as to avoid probate.

Buckle up, drive safely, and as always, your referrals are appreciated!


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