Orsbon & Fenninger, LLP

Estate Planning and Estate Administration

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How people might avoid the probate process

Many North Carolina want to avoid having their estates go through the probate process, but they may not be sure how they can do so. For real estate and other types of property, including cars, people may avoid probate by jointly owning the assets. When a person dies and has a home that he or she shares ownership with another person, the property will pass directly to that other person without going through probate court if it is held as a joint tenancy with the right of survivorship or as a joint tenancy by the entirety.

Retirement accounts and life insurance policies may pass outside of the probate process directly to the named beneficiaries. Transfer-on-death and payable-on-death registries and accounts allow the designated beneficiaries to take ownership of vehicles, stocks or accounts in a number of states.

When people establish revocable living trusts, they are able to control the assets while they are alive. When they die, the assets pass to their named beneficiaries as directed by the provisions of the trusts. People may give assets away to their intended beneficiaries before they die up to the allowed annual gift amount in order to avoid probate of those assets.

There are a variety of reasons why people may want to avoid the probate process. It can stretch on for months and in some cases for years, and thus the rightful heirs have to wait a long time for the receipt of their inheritances. In addition, probate is a matter of public record. Accordingly, people who have these concerns may want to have an attorney review their proposed or existing plan in order to see what changes can be made.

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