What would happen to your estate if you were suddenly killed in an accident? Would your bank account, real estate and other assets transfer seamlessly to your heirs?
Or would everything be hurled into probate court where state and federal attorneys wrangle over taxes and your outstanding debts? If this happens your estate can be tied up in legal proceedings for years and your estate subject to unnecessary attorney and court fees.
Besides the fact that the probate process can hack away at your assets, it can be a difficult ordeal for loved ones. Having your affairs in order helps avoid family turbulence and a less painful transfer of your assets according to your wishes.
The simplest way to avoid probate is to draft a living trust. You designate an individual you trust as your Trustee. A Trust lists all your physical assets, including real estate, and legally transfers title to the Trustee.
Any money in savings and checking accounts are subject to probate if proper steps aren’t taken. Typically a spousal or joint banking account is safe and will automatically transfer to the survivor. To be safe, talk to your banker. To keep other bank accounts safe from probate you will need to visit your bank and fill out a Payable-On-Death (POD) form. This form allows you to designate a beneficiary and transfers ownership in the event of your death. Again, it is best to talk to your banker about your accounts and it all can be handled very quickly.
When it comes to vehicles, every state has its own laws concerning ownership transfer after a death. In Kansas, it is very simple. The beneficiary will need the vehicle title and a copy of the death certificate. In addition, you will need to fill out a Descendant’s Affidavit and show proof of insurance if you plan on keeping the vehicle. All these documents are presented at the County Treasurer’s office to complete the transfer. Go here for more information on inheriting a vehicle in Kansas.
Avoiding the nightmare of probate is not that difficult to setup. Your family immediately receives the benefits of your estate without legal wrangling and the unnecessary fees and court costs of probate. Even better, your wishes are carried out quickly which may help avoid family squabbling or much worse.
Different types of trusts are available depending on your needs. Some of these include Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts, Asset Protection Trusts and Charity Trusts. A qualified estate planning attorney can go over your situation and options.
Feel free to contact our offices for advice so you can be sure your loved ones are cared for and your wishes honored. Most of all do it to avoid the pitfalls of probate court!