If your property is titled only in your name at the time of your death, then your property will go through a process known as probate. If you do not have a last will in testament the probate court will order your property to be divided among your relatives according to state law. The court will essentially decide who will receive your property if you have done no planning. In essence, the state will write your will.
If you have a Last Will and Testament your assets will still go through Probate. However, your property will be passed on to family members according to your will. In your will, you will designate an executor who will administer your estate and distribute your estate by the terms of your will. This way you can be sure that your assets go to whom you want them to go.
There are a few ways to avoid the probate court. By adding a joint owner to your property, the property will belong to the joint-owner after your death without having to go through the probate court. It is important to be very careful when adding a joint owner as they can have unexpected consequences.
A trust is often the best way to avoid probate. It is a legal document that allows a person to appoint another person to manage property during the individual’s life and then to distribute property after the individual’s’ death.