The probate process in Atlanta can be complicated, time-consuming, and even costly. Fortunately, there are estate planning tools you can use to help your family largely avoid the cost and hassle of probate. The following are only some of the ways you can keep most of your estate from going through probate, which can significantly simplify the estate administration process.
Form a Living Trust
Probate courts only oversee the distribution of property owned by the deceased individual. When you form a living trust, you can transfer the ownership of your property to the trust and the probate court does not involve itself in trust-held property. After you pass away, the trustee of your trust–whom you designate–will oversee the administration of the trust and distribution of property, leaving the courts out of it.
Own Property Jointly
If two people own real property together and one owner dies, in certain situations the other owner may automatically inherit full ownership of the property without the property having to go through probate. Only certain types of joint ownership work this way, however, so you want to discuss how your property is owned with an experienced attorney. Specifically, in Georgia, the most effective type of joint ownership is called “Joint Tenancy” or “Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship.” This is often used by married couples to pass real estate directly to a surviving spouse, though it is not restricted solely to married couples. Joint tenancy must be established in accordance with Georgia law to be effective in avoiding probate.
You should be careful when assuming that you own your property in joint tenancy. Other types of joint ownership–such as “Tenancy in Common”–do not automatically pass on ownership rights and part of the real estate can still pass through probate. In addition, Georgia does not recognize “Tenancy by the Entirety” or transfer-on-death deeds, so these may not be used to avoid probate for real estate in Atlanta.
Payable-on-death and Beneficiary Accounts
Many accounts that you may own have the option to designate a specific beneficiary in the event of your death. By establishing payable-on-death accounts, you can name beneficiaries for your bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and more. The funds in these accounts will directly transfer to the named beneficiary without having to first go through probate.
Consult with an Atlanta Estate Planning Lawyer for Help
At the law firm of Brian M. Douglas & Associates, LLC, we will evaluate your situation and the nature of your estate to help you find the most effective ways to avoid probate and protect the interests of your family. If you would like to discuss your estate planning needs at no cost, please call our Atlanta office today at (770) 933-9009 to schedule a consultation.