Probate & Trust Administration
Probate, estate, and trust administration take place after your death, and are the processes through which your assets are transferred.
Without prior legal planning to avoid probate, your estate will most certainly end with probate court if you were a resident of or owned assets in the state. During probate (or estate) administration, a personal representative or appointed estate administrator will manage assets, pay off debts, file any required tax returns or court documents, and distribute your estate assets in accordance with state law.
Probate can be a costly, lengthy process, but it is thankfully avoidable with the help of an experienced elder law attorney. By utilizing legal strategies or “probate avoidance” estate plan tactics while you are alive, you and your lawyer can ensure that after your death, your loved ones will receive your designated assets via a simple process rather than having to fight for them in court.
Some of these probate avoidance strategies, as well as their drawbacks, include:
- Joint Tenancy and Tenancy by the Entirety. By adding another person to your assets now as a joint owner, your property and assets will pass to them upon your death without the need for probate.
- Benefits: Avoid probate; designate your own joint owner
- Drawbacks: Assets are subjected to any claims (lawsuits) against the co-owner; assets are available to the co-owner’s creditors, even while you are still alive
- Beneficiary Designations. North Carolina allows Transfer on Death (TOD) or Pay on Death (POD) beneficiary designations to be added to bank accounts. Thus, beneficiary designations allow you to choose your beneficiaries without giving them access to your assets before your death.
- Benefits: Avoid probate; allow you to transfer property without giving away current ownership; assets are not subjected to beneficiaries’ creditors
- Drawbacks: Difficult to obtain equitable distribution of property among your heirs; assets will be distributed to your designated beneficiaries even if your will states otherwise
- Revocable Living Trust. This is a legal document that establishes a separate entity (the trust) to hold legal title to your assets while you are still alive. When pursuing this legal route, you’ll name trustees to manage your assets according to the trust terms after your death or incapacity.
- Benefits: Avoid probate; you can serve as trustee while alive/well; allows you to name the terms of your assets; can also designate guardianship and other estate planning features
- Drawbacks: Can be more involved than the other two routes; must be properly drafted to see all the benefits
Any of the above methods can be effective in avoiding probate, but they require the advice and expertise of an experienced estate planning attorney. The lawyers of Salines-Mondello Law Firm, PC are experienced in drafting each of these probate avoidance documents and are familiar with the additional steps that must be taken in order for them to be successful. We can help you file the right paperwork, choose your beneficiaries and trustees, maintain accounting and investment portfolios in collaboration with our professional network, and much more.
If you pass away, and your family needs assistance with your probate, estate administration or trust administration, those are areas our firm is happy to assist in order to lighten the load and make the process as painless for them as possible.
For assistance with probate or trust administration, or to work with an experienced estate and trust administration attorney in North Carolina to avoid probate, contact Salines-Mondello Law Firm, PC by phone at (910) 777-5734 and schedule your first, fully confidential consultation today.