Woman working on her estate plan with attorney

Estate Planning Tips To Avoid Probate in Massachusetts

Probate is the process through which property is legally transferred when someone dies. It can be time-consuming, costly, and confusing, especially when the estate is of high net worth or is otherwise complicated. For this reason, many individuals and families seek astute estate planning attorneys to help them avoid probate. In Southeastern Massachusetts and on Cape Cod, the knowledgeable law team of Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. provides this valuable service.

Basically, the ways to avoid probate involve seeing to it that the probate process is unnecessary because property has been proactively transferred to its beneficiary or will be automatically transferred at the time of the decedent’s death. 

There are a number of ways to successfully accomplish this, but laws relating to this matter vary from state to state, so it is best to contact probate attorneys in your own state of residence. Our experienced probate attorneys will help you use the techniques that follow to your best advantage: 

  1. Naming Beneficiaries on Accounts and Policies

By naming beneficiaries on your bank accounts, retirement accounts, and insurance policies, you designate them as recipients of your assets without a will, circum-

venting the need for probate. Any accounts or policies marked transfer-on-death or payable-on-death enable funds to transfer to your beneficiaries directly when you pass away.

  1. Creating One or More Revocable or Irrevocable Trusts

We can establish trusts that will not only avoid probate for the bulk of your assets, but will offer you multiple other benefits as well, such as asset protection, estate tax minimization, money management protection, protection of eligibility for government benefits for those with special needs, and protection for pets you predecease. The individual you name as trustee will own the funds in the trust as soon as you pass and be able to distribute them according to your wishes.

  1. Joint Ownership

Probate can also be avoided by naming another person as a joint owner of your property (e.g. real estate, vehicles) since joint ownership includes the “right of survivorship.” While some documentation will be necessary at the time of your death to transfer title, probate will be side-stepped.

It should be noted, however, that there is a certain amount of risk in using this method, since it may make your assets vulnerable to creditors of the joint owner (ex-spouses, lawsuits claims). For this reason, it is important to provide your probate attorney with all the necessary information to determine whether this is a workable strategy in your particular case.

Types of joint ownership in Massachusets include:

  • Joint tenancy: in which two parties make a purchase together. Whether or not they contribute the same amount at the time of purchase, in order for joint ownership to exist in Massachusetts, they must each own an equal share. 
  • Payable-on-death designations for bank accounts: You can add a “payable-on-death” (POD) designation to any bank account or certificate of deposit and still remain in full control of it. The designated party has no access to the asset until you die. It is a strong advantage for your beneficiary to be able to claim the money directly at the time of your death without probate proceedings.
  • Transfer-on-Death Registration for Securities: In Massachusetts, you can register stocks and bonds as transfer-on-death (TOD) items by filling out an appropriate form. If you do this, the person named for transferred funds will automatically inherit without court proceedings. It should be noted that, unlike some other states, Massachusetts does not permit transfer-on-death deeds for real estate or trans-on-death registration for vehicles.

Contact Our Experienced Probate Attorneys to Avoid the Cost of Probate

The above material gives you an idea of the ways in which our accomplished lawyers can assist you in planning your estate so that your beneficiaries reap the full benefits of your legacy as you intend. Contact us now to plan for your future and theirs successfully.