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How to Avoid Probate

Nashville Lawyers Furthering Your Estate Planning Goals

Setting up an appropriate estate plan prior to death is the best way to avoid probate and the costs associated with it. Depending on your estate and holdings, these plans may be simple or a little more involved. Although planning ahead is ideal for avoiding probate, even without appropriate documentation, heirs may still be able to limit the expense of probate proceedings with alternative options. The Nashville probate attorneys at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard PLLC assist people in making sure that their assets are distributed according to their wishes after they pass. If you need assistance with understanding how to avoid probate, contact our office today to find out about your options.

Crafting Wills, Trusts, and Other Instruments

Probate proceedings are initiated in order to distribute a deceased individual’s assets to their heirs. These proceedings are often long endeavors that may be expensive as well as complicated. As a way to avoid probate, living or revocable trusts may be executed that name a trustee to take over the estate upon an individual’s death. While an executor is living, these trusts hold their assets, including real estate, bank accounts, and any other property that may pass to someone else. In establishing these trusts, an executor must make sure to transfer ownership to themselves during their own lifetime. Upon their death, the assets contained therein will be distributed to named beneficiaries without the involvement of a probate court. People who are wondering how to avoid probate thus may find this instrument useful.

Property that is owned by a joint title with another person who has a designated “right of survivorship” will also not pass in probate via a will. These titles ensure that property held in this form will pass automatically to any other owners. Bank accounts, homes, and other real estate may be held jointly with another person. When assets are held jointly by spouses in Tennessee, it is known as ownership by the entirety, which provides additional protection upon an individual’s death, since these designations mean that both spouses own the property from the start, so no additional transfer is necessary.

Additionally, in Tennessee, an individual may designate bank accounts to be “payable-on-death,” or POD. With this option, an individual still controls the account while alive, but the designated beneficiary may claim the assets from the bank upon the account holder’s death, without needing to go through probate. Similarly, stocks and bonds may be registered to “transfer-on-death” (TOD), in which case a beneficiary will automatically inherit the account by dealing with the brokerage company directly. Real estate property, however, may not be transferred upon death via deed in Tennessee.

If an individual does not leave a will, trust, or other estate planning instrument, a simplified “small estate” probate process still may be available. A small estate probate, also known as summary probate, may be utilized if the assets left behind are under a certain amount. In Tennessee, if an estate is valued under $50,000, interested parties may file a small estate affidavit with the clerk of court instead of enduring lengthy probate proceedings.

Contact a Nashville Attorney to Learn How to Avoid Probate

Whether you need assistance planning your estate or handling another probate matter, the Nashville lawyers at Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard PLLC can help you determine an appropriate method to advance your goals. Our firm represents clients throughout Williamson and Davidson Counties, including residents of Franklin, Sylvan Park, and Belle Meade. If you need legal guidance regarding any trust, will, or estate issue, contact us online or call us at 615-800-7096 to set up an appointment with a probate or estate planning attorney.