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How to reap the rewards of avoiding probate

As you prepare your estate plans, you may place a lot of attention on your will. However, this is only one document of many, and not even the most effective one. Wills usually involve probate, which can be more harmful than helpful to your estate.

Consider the benefits of using other estate planning tools to avoid having your estate go through probate court.

What is probate?

Probate involves going through special court proceedings to validate a will and ensure the proper administration of the estate. It takes months to years to complete and requires numerous fees. Only very small estates can avoid the full process in Connecticut.

Benefits of avoiding probate

While probate may be beneficial when family disputes are present or creditors are trying to reclaim debts, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. Circumventing probate is usually the more beneficial route because it saves significant time and money, allowing more assets to go to beneficiaries (and sooner) instead of to the court and state. Bypassing probate also grants you privacy, as probate results in public records.

How to avoid probate

You have several options for how to avoid having to go through probate with a large estate. One is to transfer assets to a trust, which separates the property from your estate and thus removes it from probate law. You can name beneficiaries of your retirement account, Payable on Death account or Transfer on Death registration. Joint property can go to the surviving owner to escape probate. Gifting assets is another option, but this one can be tricky. You have to do it right, or you risk losing money to taxes and fines.

It is important to know that some parts of the estate may still be subject to probate. In this case, your attorney can advise you on your options or help you through the process.

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