estate planning

Don’t Be Fearful of Probate — Avoid It

Many of our clients, particularly those with substantial estates, are fearful of probate. They have learned that this process, during which the will of a deceased person is legally validated, can be expensive and time-consuming. When they contact us and begin working with our knowledgeable, highly competent estate planning attorneys, they are relieved to find that there are actually several ways to avoid probate.

Specific Reasons Avoiding Probate Is a Good Idea

The death of a loved one is never easy to cope with. Grieving the loss makes all logistical matters difficult to address — even making funeral arrangements can be overwhelming. This is why Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. makes it a priority, for those for whom it is necessary, to tackle the issues surrounding probate, We know that the complications and delays of probate can make the challenging period following a death in the family even more difficult, so we help our clients, especially those with high-net-worth, to plan their estates to circumvent probate entirely.

The advantages of avoiding probate, depending on which particular arrangements are made, may include:

  • Saving time, since the probate process of a large, complex estate (for example, one with multiple properties) may take 1 to 2 years, or even longer, to completely resolve
  • Saving money, because probate costs can use up 5 to 10 percent of the estate’s value in fees paid to accountants, executors (personal representatives), and attorneys
  • Allowing a surviving spouse expedited access to cash in order to pay final medical and funeral expenses
  • Keeping non-probate assets out of the reach of creditors
  • Keeping estate business private, since probate proceedings are a matter of public record

Though our keen estate planning/probate attorneys will help you to preserve as much of your accumulated assets as possible, it pays to keep in mind that your beneficiary may still be required to pay taxes on non-probate assets they receive.

Ways Our  Attorneys Can Help You Avoid Probate 

Surprenant & Beneski’s experienced lawyers have helped a great many clients in Southeastern Massachusetts to avoid the hassles of probate by using one or more of the following methods:

  1. Creating a revocable trust which replaces a will by directing assets into a trust. Although the grantor retains ownership of these assets during her/his lifetime and must pay taxes on any accrued income, these assets are not part of the grantor’s estate and therefore do not have to go through probate. At the time of the grantor’s death, the trust becomes irrevocable and the assets pass directly to the designated beneficiary.
  1. Creating an irrevocable trust which also avoids probate, but over which the grantor gives up financial control to the trustee during his/her lifetime. An irrevocable trust, however, provides the additional benefits of protecting assets from taxation, creditors, and lawsuits — which a revocable trust does not.
  1. Seeing to it that you take actions to circumvent probate, such as:
  • Own real estate in joint tenancy or with rights of survivorship
  • Have bank or brokerage accounts that are held jointly or payable on death (POD)
  • Own property jointly with a right of survivorship
  • Own motor vehicles jointly with a right of survivorship
  • Have retirement accounts that designate a beneficiary 
  • Have insurance policies for which you have named a beneficiary 

Contact Surprenant & Beneski and Stop Worrying About Probate

Our estate planning attorneys will show several ways you can avoid the financial, logistical, and emotional hassles involved in probate. If you have a large and/or complex estate and are ill at ease whenever you hear the word “probate” mentioned, contact our keen estate planning attorneys to have your peace of mind restored. 

©Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. 35 Arnold Street, New Bedford, MA 02740, 336 South Street,   Hyannis MA 02601 and 45 Bristol Drive, Easton MA 02375.  This article is for illustration purposes only.  This handout does not constitute legal advice.  There is no attorney/client relationship created with Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. by this article.  DO NOT make decisions based upon information in this handout.  Every family is unique and legal advice can only be given after an individual consultation with an elder law attorney.  Any decisions made without proper legal advice may cause significant legal and financial problems.