If you want to protect your family’s financial future, one of the best things you can do is create an estate plan. An estate plan allows you to leave your loved ones with a clear path to financial security. But, you do need to avoid pitfalls while creating your estate plan. Some mistakes can send your estate plan straight to probate court.

Luckily, you can take proactive measures to avoid the probate process altogether. These steps can also ensure a smooth transfer of your assets to your beneficiaries. Discover six steps you can use to avoid costly mistakes while preparing your estate plan.

1. Hire an Estate Planning Attorney

To ensure that your assets are protected and distributed according to your wishes, now is the time to hire an estate planning attorney. An estate planning attorney can create an effective estate plan for you. This can include strategies that can help you avoid probate. That way, your loved ones have the protection they need once you pass. 

2. Establish Revocable Trusts

When creating your estate plan, make sure you maintain control of your assets while you are alive. One way to do that is to create a revocable living trust. A revocable living trust allows you to put ownership of your assets to the trust.

Once the trust is in place, you can still maintain control of your assets while you are living. By doing so, you can designate your beneficiaries and divide assets while you are still alive. This is especially beneficial if you have assets that you want to keep out of the probate court.

3. Consider Asset Protection and Irrevocable Trusts

If you are concerned about legal liability or creditor risks, qualifying for government benefits or other issues, consider the benefits of an irrevocable trust. Talk with an attorney to make sure this is done right.

4. Designate and Update Your Beneficiaries

If you want to create an effective estate plan, attach beneficiaries to all of your assets. This should include beneficiaries for your bank accounts, investment accounts, and life insurance. That way, you can ensure that assets pass directly to your beneficiaries upon your death without getting tied up in probate. But, you should not stop there. Once you have your estate plan in effect, update your beneficiary from time to time.

5. Transfer Ownership Early

When you have assets that you want your loved ones to have immediate access to after you die, it is time for a new approach. One way to avoid any delays is to gift your assets during your lifetime.

You can transfer ownership of your property to your beneficiaries before you pass away. Gifting allows you to keep those assets out of your estate plan. That way, if your estate does end up in probate court, your loved ones do not need to wait for access to your assets. 

6. Designate POD and TOD

If you have assets like bank accounts and investment accounts, there are ways you can speed up access to those funds. Two of those methods include payable-on-death (POD) and transfer-on-death (TOD) designations. Those methods allow you to designate beneficiaries for bank accounts and brokerage accounts. Once the TOD and POD are in place, the assets will be transferred to your beneficiaries as soon as you pass.

7. Consider Joint Ownership

Ensure that your accounts have the right of survivorship. Joint accounts ensure that when one of you passes away, ownership automatically transfers to the surviving owner. Joint ownership is especially beneficial for assets like real estate, bank accounts, and vehicles.

Now that you are writing your estate plan, use the strategies provided here to protect your assets and your family. For questions and concerns, contact us today. Our attorneys are ready to help through the process of developing your estate plan. We look forward to meeting with you soon.

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