Probate is something many people try to avoid as they make their estate plans. While it might not be easy for someone with a large estate to bypass probate, New Yorkers without a lot of assets may be able to do this much more easily. There are simple ways to transfer most assets upon death without giving the beneficiary control over them sooner.
Financial accounts, including a 401(k), IRA, checking, savings and even pension can be transferred to a beneficiary without probate. The account owner merely needs to have a current beneficiary designation form on file upon their death. It's important to keep these forms up-to-date to avoid passing money to an ex-spouse or deceased loved one. A beneficiary designation form takes precedence over anything written in a will so it's essential to update these forms as needed to be sure they accurately reflect the account owner's wishes.
Other assets, such as real estate and personal vehicles, aren't transferred with a beneficiary designation form, but they can be passed down to a loved one without the expense of probate. Instead of simply naming a loved one as the beneficiary of real estate in their will, a homeowner can avoid probate by naming them on a transfer on death deed. With this kind of deed, the owner retains sole ownership and control of the property until they die. At that time, the deed is transferred to the beneficiary. A similar process can be used to transfer ownership of a vehicle. Car owners should contact the Department of Motor Vehicles or their estate planning attorney to ensure they use the recommended language on the title.
Probate may be an expensive and time-consuming process. An attorney who focuses on estate planning could offer tips and advice to help a client keep their assets out of probate by transferring through other means. Taking advantage of these strategies might take some of the stress out of planning for the future.