Four Ways To Speed Up The Probate Process For Your Loved Ones

As you make plans to put your affairs in order, you may want to devote some thought to what will happen to your estate in the weeks and months following your passing. Transferring an estate, even when everything is in order, can take months or years of intensive legal bureaucracy to resolve, leaving your loved ones waiting for resources they may need urgently. If you would like to spare your loved ones the pain of a tangled legal system after your passing, now is the time to consult with a probate attorney to ensure that transfer of your assets are as straightforward as possible. 

Exploring Exemption Qualifications

In certain situations, you may be able to avoid the probate process entirely, depending on the size of your estate, who you are leaving it to, and your state's laws. In many areas, smaller estates may be resolved without resorting to probate court, though if you are leaving behind a house or other major assets you are unlikely to qualify. Similarly, some states have streamlined the process of leaving your assets entirely with a surviving spouse. When in doubt, check with your attorney to learn which exemptions you may qualify for. 

Organizing Your Papers and Financial Accounts

One of the fastest ways to bog down a probate case is to pass on confusing and incomplete records or complicated financial accounts. The more bank accounts, credit cards, debts, investments, and other assets an executor or probate attorney needs to sift through, the longer it will take to ensure that everything reaches its intended recipient. If possible, begin simplifying your assets now and collecting their relevant documentation in a centralized place to make the process go smoother. 

Choosing Between a Will and a Living Trust 

When you sit down to discuss your estate with your attorney, you will first need to decide between using a will or a living trust to distribute your assets. Living trusts can be invaluable for larger estates and avoid probate by keeping your assets within the trust to be distributed by a designated trustee. A will is subject to probate, but it is easier to set up and does not require that all of your assets belong to the trust at the time of your passing. For smaller estates, a will is often still the right choice. 

Setting Up Beneficiaries 

Finally, you should make sure that all of your assets like investments, retirement plans, pensions, and bank accounts have named beneficiaries. This will allow your loved ones to assume control of your finances shortly after your passing, rather than subjecting them to a longer probate process. This simple step alone could save your beneficiaries months of headaches and fees as they try to assume control of assets that could have simply been paid out to them upon your passing. Based on your state and the specifics of your estate, there may be even more you can do to streamline your assets for the sake of your loved ones. Call your local probate attorney from a firm like Moore, O'Connell & Refling PC to get started setting your affairs in order so that your friends and family will not need to worry about them later.