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Attorney Randy Ratliff

How to Avoid Probate

Estate Planning Attorney Assisting Residents of the Nashville Area

Processing an estate through the probate court may be costly and time-consuming, even when there is a will and all of the interested parties agree that this document represents the testator’s final wishes. Various forms must be submitted to the court, including notice to the decedent’s creditors, and there is a mandatory waiting period before the estate can be finalized. In cases of intestacy (when the deceased person dies without a will), the procedure is often even more complex. Fortunately, there are several relatively simple and cost-effective ways to avoid probate. If you have questions about steps that you can take to avoid or at least minimize the probate process, experienced Nashville estate planning lawyer Randy Ratliff can help.

What exactly is the process called “probate?” Simply put, probate is the legal procedure of transferring the assets of a deceased person into the hands of their beneficiaries. The particular assets that must pass through probate may vary substantially from one estate to another. For people who are married at the time of their death, many assets (such as a home owned jointly with a right of survivorship) pass automatically to the surviving spouse without the need for probate. When a single or widowed individual passes away, however, their home, vehicles, bank account, household furnishings, and other assets typically pass through probate before being distributed to their heirs.

How to Avoid Probate by Using Effective Estate Planning Tools

Simply understanding the different ways that property can be held can go a long way toward making sure that one’s assets pass as quickly and directly as possible after one’s death. A knowledgeable estate planning attorney can help you review deeds and other documents to make sure that your property is titled in a manner that allows it to pass outside probate or, if it is not, assist you in drafting the paperwork necessary to effectuate your wishes. It is also wise to take a look at bank accounts, retirement accounts, investments, life insurance, and other assets so that you understand how those assets will pass after your death.

Additionally, a living trust may be a useful alternative to a last will and testament for people who wish to avoid probate. A trust may be either revocable or irrevocable, depending on whether the person setting up the trust may wish to change the terms of the trust at some point in the future. Once assets are placed into the trust, the trust becomes the legal owner of those assets, and they are then managed by the trustee for the benefit of the beneficiaries named in the trust document. After the trustor’s death, the trustee makes a final distribution of the assets identified in the trust.

In reviewing an estate, there are some other documents that may be used to avoid probate and possible future litigation, not only regarding one’s financial affairs but also regarding matters such as one’s health care. A simple, inexpensive document known as a durable power of attorney for health care is used to name a trusted loved one to make health care decisions should the grantor become legally incompetent to make such decisions later. This may avoid a protracted and expensive conservatorship battle, especially in situations in which competing family members may ask the court to intervene and allow them to make such decisions.

Speak to a Nashville Attorney About Securing Your Future

Thinking about the future, especially end-of-life decisions and the passing on of one’s hard-earned assets, may be difficult. Choosing not to plan for the inevitable does not mean that it will not happen, however. It just means that the process will be more expensive, more complicated, and more time-consuming when the time comes. To make things as easy as possible for your loved ones, the wise course of action is to talk to a Nashville attorney now. Elder law lawyer Randy Ratliff can help. Call us at 615-656-8282 or contact us online to set up an appointment today. We serve all of Davidson and Williamson Counties, including people in Franklin, Antioch, Hermitage, Brentwood, Madison, Goodlettsville, Joelton, and Cool Springs.