Probate avoidance important goal for dad of busy adult children
Question: Probate avoidance is something I want to include in my estate plan because I want to avoid disrupting my children’s lives. Both are very busy working adults with their own families and live out of state. I am 60, divorced. I don’t have much in assets — just cars, some bank and brokerage accounts. Do I need a will? Should I make the children co-owners of my assets to avoid probate?
Answer: You say your estate is modest, but I do not know precisely what that means, nor what the value of your estate will be when you pass away. If your probatable assets are under $75,000 and you have no debts when you pass away, then your estate might qualify for “summary probate.” This is a quicker and less expensive process than formal probate that does not require the appointment of a personal representative. It probably would not be too burdensome for your children.
Regarding making the children co-owners of your assets, that is usually undesirable as a probate avoidance technique, since it could make the assets vulnerable to their creditors. Instead, you might consider naming them as death beneficiaries of your assets. Then the assets would then pass to them directly without probate. A will is a good idea regardless. If there are Joseph Karp
The Karp Law Firm, P.A. any assets you’ve failed to name a death beneficiary for, the will ensures that the assets will be distributed as you wish.
As you set up your estate plan, do not neglect to include plans that are important not just at death, but during your lifetime. You should have a durable power of attorney for property to ensure someone (presumably your children) can handle your financial affairs if you become disabled. You also need a health care surrogate naming someone to make your health care decisions if you cannot do so. It would be wise to meet with a certified elder law/estate planning attorney to have the documents properly drafted.
Joseph Karp, a member of the Florida and New York Bars, is a Nationally and Florida Bar Certified Elder Law Attorney and founder of The Karp Law Firm, located in Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties. The firm assists clients with wills, trusts, Medicaid and VA benefits planning, special needs planning, asset preservation, probate/trust administration and estate litigation.