The probate process in Massachusetts can be long and expensive. When someone dies without a will, their assets must go through the probate process.
Since there is no will to determine who receives which assets, the assets are distributed according to probate law. Sometimes, even if someone dies with a will, the probate process may become necessary if someone appears and challenges the validity of the will.
You most likely want to avoid probate if possible, and there are ways to potentially do that. This not only allows you to save the time, money and complications of the probate process but it also allows you to properly grieve for your loved one.
Jointly owned assets and trusts
Having joint ownership of your assets is one of the main ways to avoid probate. Almost any asset can be held jointly, including a home, vehicle or investments. Upon death, these assets will automatically go to the joint owner, rather than into probate.
A revocable living trust allows someone to transfer property into the trust during their lifetime, with the property being distributed to heirs upon death. Alternate heirs or beneficiaries can be named, and the property can be distributed without any waiting period.
Bank or other types of accounts often allow someone to name a beneficiary. This account is commonly known as a transfer-on-death account. The idea is the same as with a trust: upon death, the account proceeds are automatically transferred to the beneficiary.
Review beneficiary designations regularly
It is always a good idea to regularly review your life insurance policies or anything else that has beneficiaries named. Make sure the beneficiary designations are current.
These are just a few ideas to help you avoid the probate process. Every situation is different, so talking with an estate planning attorney can help you make the right choices.