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Davis County Probate Lawyer

Helping Clients Understand the Probate Process

If you’re planning your estate, you’re likely thinking about how to help your family handle the legal details regarding your property when you’re no longer here. During this process, you might hear about the importance of avoiding probate. But maybe you’re curious about why that is and how you can do so.

At Able & Strong Law, Inc., we want our clients to understand the reasoning behind major legal decisions before agreeing to them, so we’re happy to explain what the probate process means for your loved ones. Call us to talk to a trusted probate lawyer in Davis County about wills, living trusts, probate court, and other estate planning details.

What Is Probate?

Probate is the process of distributing the decedent’s assets after their death. If they had a will, the probate court must validate it and approve of the person they chose as the executor. Once it’s clear the deceased person left a valid will, the executor will take over locating and assessing the value of the assets before paying taxes and debts owed by the decedent’s estate. The executor will then distribute remaining assets to family members as instructed by the will.

When a person dies without a will, the probate court appoints a personal representative to determine which relatives get which assets. In most cases, an immediate family member, such as the spouse or child, will be given the deceased person’s estate at the end of the probate proceedings. Of course, this can cause confusion and hurt if the deceased person promised to leave certain assets to specific relatives without documenting their intentions through a will. This is why it’s important to make an estate plan with the help of an attorney.

Even if the decedent left a will, their property will likely have to go through the probate process unless they carefully planned ways to avoid it. To avoid probate, you should talk to a lawyer to learn which estate planning tools will allow your beneficiaries access to your assets without this court-supervised proceeding.

Do All Assets Go Through Probate?

While probate is a common legal process, only certain assets must go through probate court before beneficiaries get them. The following are subject to the probate process in most cases:

  • Sole ownership property: Any asset solely in your name with no designated beneficiary will go through probate court, including houses, vehicles, bank accounts, and personal items.
  • Tenant in common property: If you co-own property, your share of it will go through probate unless your will makes it clear who gets it after your death.
  • Investments: Any investments that you’re the sole owner of will go through probate, including stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.
  • Smaller estates: If the value of the estate is $100,000 or less, you can use a small estate affidavit to transfer your assets to your beneficiaries while avoiding probate.

There are some situations where you can avoid probate, or at least reduce the amount of belongings that go through this legal process. The following can bypass probate and go directly to your beneficiaries:

  • Jointly owned property with Survivor’s Rights: If you jointly own property with someone else, they will become the sole owner when you pass away, so there’s no need for it to go through the probate proceeding.
  • Accounts with named beneficiaries: You can avoid probate on any accounts with a named beneficiary, such as life insurance, IRAs, and 401(k)s.
  • Assets in a living trust: Any property placed in a trust will avoid probate.
  • Payable-on-death (POD) and transfer-on-death (TOD) accounts: If you have bank accounts designated POD or securities designated TOD, these can pass to your beneficiaries without the probate process.

If you’re unsure how Utah’s probate laws affect your personal property, you should talk to an experienced attorney. Contact our Davis County law office today for advice.

How Can You Avoid Probate?

If the assets you own are the kind that typically must go through probate, you can change that by taking some steps during the estate planning process. Your attorney can guide you through them based on the assets you own.

A common way of avoiding probate is to transfer property to a living trust, since all the assets in the trust can bypass probate. Another option is to ensure your property is jointly owned with a right of survivorship so it automatically passes to the other owner upon death.

With some assets, you can designate a beneficiary now so it’s clear which family member it passes to, meaning it skips the probate process. Examples include some retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and payable-on-death or transfer-on-death accounts.

Finally, keeping your estate small enough that it’s valued at $100,000 or less can let your assets bypass probate. You can do this by giving your assets to your loved ones now, which could also save you money on taxes. If you have questions about these or other ways to avoid probate, call our law office to talk to a knowledgeable attorney.

When Should You Call a Davis County Probate Lawyer?

Avoiding probate is a common goal for people planning their estate. After all, most probate proceedings take a year or more to complete and come with court fees, attorney fees, and other costs that ultimately reduce the amount of money your heirs get. So, if you want to avoid the time-consuming, costly probate process, you’re not alone. A skilled lawyer can instruct you on how to do so.

When you contact us for help planning your estate, we’ll ensure you know the details about wills, trusts, probate administration, personal representatives, and other estate planning basics. If you’re ready to learn more about your options as you plan your estate, call us at 385-438-8801 for an initial consultation.