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Effective estate planning to keep your family out of probate

The word probate makes most California residents feel uneasy. Many do not really know why this happens, they just know that probate is something to avoid whenever possible. Perhaps these people have heard alarming stories from friends or family about the horrors of probate, or maybe they have read about it online. Whatever the reason, it is safe to say that most people want to keep their family members away from probate after they pass away.

For those who wonder what all the fuss is about probate, here are a few reasons most want to avoid this process:

-- Can take months or years to complete

-- Probate can become very costly

-- Increased costs mean less assets are left for heirs

Proper estate planning can solve the problem of probate, and it is not even that hard to accomplish. The first order of business is to secure an attorney who regularly assists residents in planning out their estate. From there, your attorney can outline a number of options for you to choose from.

Joint property ownership: By jointly owning property, it will automatically pass on to your co-owner when you die.

Assigning death beneficiaries: This solution is ideal for retirement accounts, financial accounts and even for stocks or bonds. By naming a beneficiary in these types of accounts, they will pass on to your heirs without the need for probate.

Revocable living trusts: Transferring your property to another party, or a trustee, removes the property from your estate thus keeping it out of probate. To ensure a revocable living trust will serve you and your family's interests it is advisable to seek advice from an attorney.

Gifting: Although not quite as reliable as the other options, gifting may be appropriate for less valuable personal property. Giving your loved ones ownership of this property before you die often reduces or eliminates the need for probate.

Source: FindLaw, "Avoiding the Probate Process," accessed April 14, 2016

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