Settling an estate can be a complicated, expensive process, especially if no steps are taken to try to minimize the duration and costs of probate. When, however, people have the foresight to try to help their loved ones avoid probate in the future, they can take certain steps now to put the right plans in place – and that can be integral to preserving as much of an estate as possible for the beneficiaries (rather than having the assets going towards satisfying probate expenses).
Below are some of the more common options that grantors pursue in order to help their loved ones reduce their future probate obligations:
- Start with a comprehensive will – Any asset not spoken for in a will or another estate planning feature will typically have to pass through probate as part of the asset distribution process. So, develop a will that speaks for all of your assets.
- NOTE: Probate is the process of validating and administering a will. So, simply having a will does NOT prevent the need for probate; it is a first step towards putting the right plans in place, however, for minimizing future probate obligations.
- Take advantage of some direct ways of distributing assets – More direct ways of giving assets to beneficiaries can be by setting up trusts (which can distribute the assets according to any terms you see fit) and by taking advantage of “payable-on-death” or “transfer-upon-death” designations (PODs or TODs; these are often associated with, for instance, the holdings of bank accounts). When either of these options is incorporated into an estate plan, the specific asset can be immediately transferred to a beneficiary without the need for probate.
- Consider giving some assets now – Another viable alternative to helping loved ones avoid an expensive probate case in the future is to simply give them certain assets now. Gifting now can be an effective way to limit future probate expenses while allowing you to see your loved ones enjoy the specific asset or inheritance you have bestowed to them.
- Tell your loved ones about your estate plan – Once you have developed a comprehensive estate plan, informing your loved ones about it (or, at the very least, where the plan is stored) is another critical step to reducing future probate costs. This is because, if your loved ones don’t know that you have an estate plan or they can’t find the latest version of it, the initial stage of the probate case can be drawn out, costing your loved ones more (money and stress) than is necessary.
How to Reduce the Costs of Probate after a Loved One Passes Away
Regardless of whether an estate plan is in place, when a loved one dies, one of the single most important things that surviving loved ones can do to limit the duration and expense of an upcoming probate case is to retain an experienced lawyer to help them navigate the process.
Although the cost of a lawyer can come with some upfront expense, it’s an investment that can be pivotal to avoiding costly pitfalls – and to protecting and advancing their interests – as surviving loved ones proceed to settle a decedent’s estate.
Contact the Pueblo Attorneys at Gradisar, Trechter, Ripperger & Roth
For the highest quality services and representation for estate planning and probate in Colorado, contact the experienced Pueblo attorneys at Gradisar, Trechter, Ripperger & Roth by calling (719) 556- 8844 or by emailing us using the contact form on this page.
From our offices based in Pueblo, we represent clients in Trinidad, La Jara, Lamar, Walsenburg, Alamosa and throughout the state of Colorado.