When an individual with sole ownership of a property dies, the probate court will usually determine who the property will go to. Without any designated beneficiaries, the property will pass to the individual’s heirs as decided by state law. If there is a will, the property and other assets will be passed on according to the wills terms.
There is however, a way to pass property to an heir without going through the probate court. Avoiding probate is desirable to many people because of the cost and time of the probate process.
Often the best way to avoid the probate court is by a revocable living trust. A trust allows an individual to transfer their property and assets into the name of the trust. Upon their death, the person appointed as Trustee (usually a family member) will then distribute assets according to the terms of the trust.
While a will usually is an acceptable estate planning document, a revocable living trust can avoid the cost and time associated with the probate court and the tax consequences of other forms of estate planning. A trust is a thoughtful gift to family members so they will not have to deal with the probate court after your death.
Every situation is unique, before taking any estate planning action you should meet with a qualified elder law attorney to help you decide what estate planning option is best for you.