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Can probate be avoided?

The days, weeks and months after a loved one passes away can be some of the most emotionally devastating for people who are left behind. Between the funeral planning and trying to figure out how to move forward, the last thing people typically want to do is spend their time in a courtroom proving the validity of a will and hashing out legal disputes, which is what happens in probate.

That leaves many people asking the question, "Can't I just avoid probate?" The answer here is: possibly, with the right planning tools in place.

There are a number of ways people can set up estate plans to avoid all or parts of probate. One of the most common ways to do this is to put property and money in living trusts.

Living trusts allow a person to transfer assets by giving permission to the trustee to transfer ownership of the property in the trust, rather than having to go through probate. This can save people a lot of time, money and energy.

Even if it isn't possible to completely avoid probate, a person can minimize the potential for disputes that can extend probate proceedings. In order to do this, you can have a clear, comprehensive and enforceable will in place, and make sure any executor named takes seriously his or her fiduciary duties. Oftentimes, probate drags on and on because of people challenging a will or taking issue with how an estate is being administered.

When you are creating your estate plan, you likely want to take whatever steps you can to protect not only your wishes but the interests of your loved ones as well. Doing what you can to minimize disputes and avoid some or all aspects of probate can be enormously beneficial to all parties involved. For more specific information on how you can do this, it would be wise to consult an attorney.

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