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You can skip probate?

Yes -- it is true, for many kinds of assets.

The best way to keep a critical asset out of the probate process is not to own it - at least, not all by yourself.

We at Mahaffey & Associates LLC encourage clients in the Toledo area to consider the benefits of co-owning assets like real estate and car. Generally, you sign co-ownership documents with family members or very close friends.

If you are married and own almost everything in common with your spouse, you may not have to pass through probate at all.

A common and simple form of co-ownership is called Tenancy in Common, or TIC. This arrangement divides a property into shares. When one co-owner dies, the property passes immediately to the surviving share owners. This pattern of passing along is called the right of survivorship.

There are other ways to sidestep probate:

  • You can give assets away to a loved one, or to a charity. Once it is legally in their hands and out of yours, the asset does not pass through probate.
  • Life insurance proceeds go directly to named beneficiaries. It is important to name beneficiaries of mutual funds, too.
  • You can mark bank accounts as payable-on-death and investment accounts as transfer-on-death. The money changes hands before probate can consider it.
  • You can put property in a living trust. At that point it belongs to the trust and not to you. The trust includes instructions as to whom the assets go.

In addition, some assets avoid probate by their very nature: retirement accounts and pension distributions, earnings you were owed at the time of death, and other assets.

As you can see, all these solutions are about documentation and written in standard "legalese." But they are not especially complex. A trusted lawyer can help you set up an effective defense against probate quickly and affordably.

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