How to Avoid Probate in Virginia
Probate is not an overly complex or lengthy process in Virginia. However, it still delays the transfer of ownership of property and money to your beneficiaries. Ultimately, probate is something you may want to avoid to help out your heirs and make less work for your personal representative. While your will must be validated and your estate accounted for during probate, you can reduce the amount of property within your probate estate by using a few legal vehicles, like trusts and beneficiary designations.
Tools to Avoid Probate
You cannot entirely avoid probate, however, you can reduce the number of assets that must be gathered, potentially subject to your creditors, and then distributed by the representative. To have your assets move to the next owner faster, consider:
- Creating a trust: A trust is a legal vehicle in which you transfer the ownership of property to the trust, and either the proceeds or principal of the assets are for the benefit of the named beneficiaries. When you pass away, you can have the trust set up to automatically give the property to one or more beneficiaries. This is done privately and does not have to go through probate. You can create a revocable trust during your life. This way, if you change your mind, you can alter or revoke the trust.
- Adding beneficiaries to accounts directly: Many checking, savings, retirement, life insurance, and other accounts enable you to add a beneficiary directly to the account. By doing so, the beneficiary can use this money immediately upon your passing. The money does not have to go through probate. This can be particularly helpful if you want your family to be able to use a certain account to pay for burial expenses.
- Setting up a transfer or pay on death: This is similar to putting a beneficiary on your account. You can designate a person to whom the account is paid upon your death.
- Creating a joint tenancy with right of survivorship: One way to ensure real estate does not have to go through probate is to change your sole ownership to a joint tenancy with a right of survivorship with your intended beneficiary as the other co-owner. This will enable the other owner to take control of the property immediately upon your passing since the title will remain with them. This works very well if you want your home to go to a specific family member, friend, or a significant other who lives with you.
- Transferring property earlier in life: Whether or not this works depends on your situation. Some individuals prefer to begin gifting small property like jewelry and art prior to their passing. However, it may not be wise to gift significant amounts of money since you never know how your financial situation may change in the future.
Contact an Estate Planning Attorney for More Information