When you die, your assets pass to your heirs by way of the probate process, regardless of whether you have a will or not. Probate in Reno can be a lengthy process. The administrator is required to make an inventory of all of your assets. Real estate must be appraised to determine its value. Creditors and beneficiaries or heirs must be notified. If there is no will, these steps will likely take longer, because the court has to determine, based on the law in your state, which relatives are entitled to inherit from your estate.
However, this process is not necessarily required depending on how you plan your estate and how you situate your assets. There are various estate planning tools through which you can ensure your property passes to your heirs without having to go through probate in Reno. Some of the most common tools are joint ownership, living trusts, gifts and various pay-on-death accounts. Consult with a Reno estate planning attorney to establish the right plan for you.
Joint ownership is one method of transferring property without going through probate, if title is held as joint tenants rather than tenants-in-common. This method works because, when one joint owner dies, the surviving owner automatically obtains ownership of the property by operation of law. Therefore, transfer of full ownership does not require going through probate. There are many different types of joint ownership, with different purposes. Discuss your options with a Nevada estate planning attorney.
A living trust is an estate planning tool that holds certain assets during your lifetime and provides continuing management of those assets. Like a will, a trust can also provide instructions for the disposition of your property after your death. The difference between a living trust and a will is that the property placed in the trust does not become part of your estate after your death. Instead, the trust owns the property. Despite that fact, you maintain the ability to determine how the property will be distributed after your death. The trustee will have the ability to quickly and easily transfer your trust property to the heirs you intended, without going through the probate process. Of course, the trust must be administered, but the process is accomplished outside the courtroom.
Another common way to avoid probate is to give your property to others as gifts during your lifetime. The reason is, if you no longer own the property, it does not need to go through the probate process. Also, the cost of probate is often directly related to the value of your assets when you die. So, even if you do have to go through probate, the process will be less expensive because your gifts will have decreased the value of your estate.
You can also pass along some of your financial assets by converting certain accounts, such as your bank account or retirement account, into payable-on-death accounts. You need only complete a form that lists one or more beneficiaries of that account. At your death, the money is then transferred automatically to your named beneficiary without the need for probate.
While there are many methods to avoid probate, they may not be wise. Many protections can be included in a revocable living trust, that are not available with outright distribution with other methods. See your northern Nevada estate planning attorney to discuss which method is best for you.