Avoiding Probate

When someone dies, their will is submitted for probate, the legal process where a court determines if the will is valid and authentic. Probate ensures creditors are paid and that assets are distributed to the correct beneficiaries. If you pass without a will, you are considered to have died intestate, and the distribution of your assets will be determined by the court.


Probate expenses can range from hundreds of dollars to thousands depending on the on the value and complexity of the estate and whether a will or trust was in place. Additionally, probating a will makes it a public document eliminating any privacy of its contents and the probate process can delay the administering of your estate and draw it out over many months or even years.

Therefore many individuals try to avoid or reduce what is included in probate. An experienced attorney can help you avoid probate in several ways including the strategies below.

  • Designate Beneficiaries– Assets that have a beneficiary designation (such as life insurance, retirement, and bank accounts) will pass automatically to the named beneficiary, avoiding probate.
  • Title Assets Properly – Assets that are co-owned with a right of survivorship will pass automatically to the surviving co-owner without going through probate, such as a home owned by a married couple with a right of survivorship.
  • Use a Trust – Trusts avoid probate for assets that are transferred to the trust before death even though they may still be used during such lifetime. For assets that allow for a beneficiary designation, the trust can be named the beneficiary.
  • Pour-Over Will – When using a trust, one should also consider including a pour-over will to account for any assets that are missed or were not transferred to the trust. This document will transfer the remaining assets to the trust at death.

To get help with your estate planning or navigating the probate process contact Tarris Law at (540) 319-4111 or email us at info@TarrisLaw.com.