Orsbon & Fenninger, LLP

Estate Planning and Estate Administration

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Common methods to avoid probate

The probate process may take several months to complete and cost thousands of dollars in legal fees. However, there are ways in which North Carolina residents may be able to prevent their assets from going though probate. The first way to do this is to create a living trust. A single individual can act as the grantor of the trust, the trustee and the beneficiary.

A successor would also be named to distribute assets after the grantor dies. Since the assets are technically owned by the trust, an individual technically dies without any property to probate. Another way to avoid probate is to title property as joint tenancy with right of survivorship. When an individual passes on, the title to a property simply flows to whoever else owned the property with that person.

Finally, it may be possible to name a beneficiary for one or more accounts. Typically, an individual can name a beneficiary on a retirement account such as a 401(k) or IRA, which allows it to go directly to that person. Beneficiaries may also be added to bank accounts or taxable investment accounts. All a beneficiary has to do is provide a valid death certificate and proof of his or her identity to collect the inherited asset.

Those who are interested in creating a living trust or other estate plan documents may wish to talk with an attorney. Legal counsel may be helpful in either creating them from scratch or reviewing any that already exist. It may be possible to make changes to any existing forms to better ensure that they meet an individual's needs or that they conform to state law.

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