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Robert N. Getz

4 steps parents can take to make probate easier

As soon as people become parents, their priorities change. Instead of thinking about what they want and need, they start thinking about what their child wants and needs. This goal of protecting children is a lifelong one. In fact, it doesn't end when a parent passes away.

Having an estate plan in place can help parents protect their children (and grandchildren and great-grandchildren) in several ways. For instance, taking the time to create an estate plan can make the probate process a little easier. Below, we explain how parents can do this.

  1. Consider setting up a trust - Setting up a trust, like a revocable living trust, can make probate much easier because property in these trusts will not need to go through probate.
  2. Be thoughtful with distributions - Leaving money or property to your kids can be more complicated than you think. To prevent fighting and hurt feelings during probate, be thoughtful with how you distribute your assets. Do you want to make them equal or equitable? Do you want to put restrictions on when funds are available, or how your child uses them? 
  3. Make sure your wishes are clear - Your estate plan should reflect your wishes, and sometimes others may be surprised or confused by these wishes. This can trigger contests and arguments during probate. As such, you should be sure your wishes are clear. You might think about explaining potentially divisive decisions or discussing them with loved ones now to give them the chance to ask questions. 
  4. Understand the benefits and drawbacks of passing property to kids - As this Forbes article discusses, there are various ways to leave property to a child. Some options make it easier to transfer in probate, others can be more cost-effective. Consider all the options before deciding what to do in order to make probate go more smoothly. 

Probate won't be easy for loved ones and children who are grieving and upset. However, parents can provide their families with some relief when they take steps to make the process a little less challenging.

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