When there is no will, the estate will usually be subject to intestate succession laws. Estate planning is a way for particular items to be distributed according to the wishes of the deceased. When this doesn’t take place, it is likely that a probate court will need to be involved to sort out the assets and distribute them fairly. Smaller estates may not require a will or probate.
There are three options that avoid having an estate sent through probate. Real estate can be transferred into a living trust with a named successor. Spouses holding joint tenancy have the right of survivorship when one spouse passes. Similar to joint tenancy are some state allowances for a beneficiary deed or Transfer on Death deed.
If there is a will but no beneficiaries are named or there is an outdated will, there is a likelihood that the estate will enter into probate. A will may be contested by the named beneficiaries or an outdated will can leave inaccurate assets to distribute. Multiple wills also pose problematic issues with beneficiaries. Beneficiaries may need to rely upon the services of a probate attorney to sort through the complexities of their rightful estate distributions.
By planning ahead, you can save your loved ones from the additional burden of dealing with probate court after your passing. Estate planning and putting your affairs in order will protect what you have worked hard to accumulate during your lifetime and provides protection for your loved ones when you’re gone.