Does a will always have to be probated?
Losing a loved one is difficult, and the last thing families want to deal with at a time like this is a complicated legal process to settle an estate. In South Carolina, most estates must pass through probate court in order to be settled. However, there are a few circumstances which allow potential heirs to avoid going through probate and have a more simplified process to distribute assets.
Naming a beneficiary
One great estate planning tool for a streamlined settlement of an estate is to name a beneficiary for every asset that will allow a listed beneficiary. This will include bank accounts, life insurance, real estate and stock portfolios. By adding a beneficiary to these accounts, the property or funds pass directly to the beneficiary and not to the estate. This eliminates the need for an estate to be probated.
Create a revocable trust
Designing a revocable trust is a great way to encompass assets into a manageable plan once a loved one passes. A revocable trust can be changed at any time after it is formed by the trustees. Therefore, as assets are accumulated or liquidated, the trust can be changed to address current assets and their division at death.
Have a will
Not having a will when a loved one dies will complicate any situation no matter how large the estate is. In order to avoid probate and communicate wishes clearly, having a will is an important step in any estate plan to protect loved ones.
Estates under $25,000
Most estates with a value less than $25,000 will not require probate. Typically, affidavits can be created by the probate court which will instruct financial institutions to distribute funds to identified heirs.
In some cases, it might be necessary or even beneficial for an estate to go through the probate process. However, it is certainly a good idea to consider estate planning steps now that could make life easier for heirs in the future.