The process of proving a Will and administering an estate may seem mysterious. But that’s exactly what probate is.
“Proving” the Will happens when a deceased person’s Will is presented to a probate court. The judge establishes the validity of the Will so that the estate administration can begin in earnest.
“Administering” the estate means gathering assets and debts, then distributing them according to the terms of the Will. A personal representative, also known as an executor, handles this important process.
Probate can be a frustrating and expensive process. Fortunately, people may pass their assets to heirs if a plan to avoid probate is in place.
Estate Planning Is Key
Everyone needs an estate plan. However, an estate plan based on a Last Will and Testament usually is headed for probate court. Other planning is needed to avoid probate in Alabama.
A revocable living trust provides a method of transferring assets to heirs without the need for probate. When the creator of the revocable living trust passes away, assets in the trust are handled according to the terms of the trust document.
For example, Becky R. wanted to help her heirs avoid probate. She formed the Becky R. Revocable Living Trust and specified that her heirs would receive the trust assets upon her death. Becky funded the trust by transferring assets to trust ownership. After her death, the assets in the trust will pass directly to the heirs without the need for probate.
It’s important to note that any assets not transferred to the trust may be distributed through probate. Also, estate plans based on a revocable living trust should include a Will.
Beneficiary Designations and Property Ownership Play a Part
While preparing an estate plan, it’s crucial to check beneficiary designations also. In fact, beneficiary designations are another way to avoid probate. When an account holder dies, funds remaining in the account pass directly to anyone named as a beneficiary. The same generally is true for insurance policies. Insurance proceeds and money passed through beneficiary designations usually do not become part of a decedent’s probate estate.
Some forms of joint property ownership also allow property to pass to an heir without the need for probate. However, choosing the wrong form of joint property ownership may not have the desired outcome. Always talk to an attorney before jointly owning property with someone other than a spouse.
Learn How to Avoid Probate in Alabama
Hire an experienced Alabama estate planning lawyer like Bruce Adams.
He knows how to handle his clients’ legal questions and concerns. Please contact Bruce at 256-237-3339 to set up an appointment or use our convenient Contact Form. Our office is located in Anniston, Alabama, but we assist clients in surrounding Calhoun, Cleburne, Etowah, and St. Clair Counties.