How To Avoid a Probate Attorney

One crucial aspect to consider when planning your estate is how to avoid probate. Probate can be a complex and time-consuming process involving the distribution of a deceased person’s assets under court supervision. The lengthy process often requires the involvement of a probate attorney, which can lead to additional costs and delays.

In this blog post, we will guide you through various strategies to sidestep probate, safeguard your assets, and ensure a smooth transfer of wealth to your beneficiaries.

Understanding Probate

Probate is a fundamental legal process that is crucial in ensuring the orderly transfer of a deceased person’s assets and estate to their rightful beneficiaries or heirs. You must understand the various aspects of probate to navigate this process effectively.

  • Estate Administration: At the time of their death, an owner’s estate includes all their assets, properties, possessions, and liabilities. The probate court oversees the management and distribution of these assets.
  • Validation of the Will: If the deceased person left a will, the probate court must confirm its authenticity and validity. If the will is authentic, it becomes the legally binding document that dictates the distribution of the assets among beneficiaries.
  • Intestacy Laws: If the deceased person did not leave a will or the court deems the will invalid, the probate court will follow the laws of intestacy. Intestacy laws vary by state and provide a set of rules that determine how the estate will be distributed among the deceased person’s heirs, typically prioritizing spouses, children, parents, and other close relatives.
  • Identification and Appraisal of Assets: During probate, the estate’s executor or administrator is responsible for identifying and inventorying the deceased’s assets. This process involves locating and valuing properties, bank accounts, investments, personal belongings, and other assets.
  • Payment of Debts and Taxes: Outstanding debts and taxes the deceased person owes, including medical bills, credit card debts, mortgages, and other financial obligations, must be settled. The estate’s assets are used to clear these debts before distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries.
  • Distribution of Assets: The executor or administrator allocates the remaining assets to the heirs according to the terms of the will or intestacy laws. They are responsible for carrying out this distribution under the court’s supervision to ensure fairness and compliance with the law.
  • Probate Court Oversight: The court reviews the executor’s actions, accounting, and any challenges to the will or distribution. This oversight protects the interests of all parties involved and prevents any potential misconduct or fraud.
  • Duration and Cost: The length of the probate process varies depending on the complexity of the estate, the presence of any disputes, and the efficiency of the court system. Probate can take several months to a few years to complete and can be expensive — court fees, legal fees, and other related costs can reduce the estate’s value.

What Is a Probate Attorney?

The probate process typically requires the involvement of a probate attorney, who will guide you through the necessary steps to distribute assets according to the law. A probate attorney is a legal professional who specializes in assisting individuals and families with the probate process.

When someone dies, their estate typically goes through probate, the legal process of administering the deceased person’s assets and distributing them to their beneficiaries or heirs. A probate attorney’s role is to provide legal guidance, representation, and support throughout this process.

Here are some critical aspects of the probate attorney’s duties:

  • Help the executor or the administrator carry out their duties and responsibilities.
  • Authenticate the will and other legal documents.
  • Assist the court in determining the rightful heirs according to intestacy laws.
  • Prepare and file the necessary paperwork with the probate court, ensuring compliance with all legal requirements.
  • Assist in identifying and inventorying all the assets and properties the deceased owned at their death.
  • Settle any outstanding debts and taxes the deceased person owed.
  • Represent the interests of the beneficiaries in court in case of disputes or disagreements among beneficiaries.
  • Represent the executor or administrator in court proceedings, hearings, and legal challenges to the will or estate distribution.
  • Provide legal advice and guidance to the executor, beneficiaries, and other interested parties to ensure that all actions follow state laws and the deceased person’s wishes.
  • Help individuals create comprehensive estate plans, including wills, trusts, and other instruments, to minimize the need for probate and ensure a smoother transfer of assets upon their death.

The probate attorney’s fees vary based on the estate size, so minimizing their involvement and avoiding using a probate attorney is in your best interest, if possible.

How To Get Around Probate

Many people ask, “How can probate be avoided?” While the probate process is necessary for certain situations, avoiding it can be desirable for many individuals. Getting around probate offers several advantages, including privacy, reduced costs, and faster distribution of assets to beneficiaries. 

Here are some effective strategies on how to get around probate.

Establish a Revocable Living Trust

A revocable living trust is one of the most popular and versatile tools to avoid probate. You can transfer your assets into the trust during your lifetime, designating yourself as the trustee and beneficiary. As the trustee, you retain control over the assets and can manage them as you wish.

Upon your death, a successor trustee you have named takes over the administration of the trust and distributes the assets to the beneficiaries you designated. Since the trust holds the assets, they do not go through probate.

Designate Beneficiaries

You can directly designate beneficiaries for certain assets, such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and payable-on-death (POD) bank accounts. At the time of death, these assets automatically transfer to the named beneficiaries, bypassing probate. Keep the beneficiary designations up-to-date to reflect any changes in your circumstances.

Joint Ownership With Right of Survivorship

Owning property or financial accounts jointly with another person typically a spouse or family member, and with the right of survivorship can help bypass probate. When an owner dies, the ownership automatically transfers to the surviving joint owner without the need for probate. This strategy is beneficial for real estate assets.

Gifts and Lifetime Giving

Another way to reduce the size of your estate that is subject to probate is by gifting assets to your beneficiaries during your lifetime. The annual gift tax exclusion allows you to give a certain amount to each individual without incurring gift tax. Giving assets reduces the value of your estate and potentially avoids probate for those specific assets.

Small Estate Affidavit

In some states, if the value of the deceased person’s estate is relatively small, there may be provisions for a simplified probate process or a small estate affidavit. This procedure allows heirs to claim the assets without formal probate proceedings. The estate may qualify for these less time-consuming and less expensive probate options if it meets specific criteria.

Transfer-on-Death (TOD) Designation

In certain states, you can use a transfer-on-death deed to designate a beneficiary for real estate. The property will pass directly to the named beneficiary upon death, bypassing probate. Aside from real estate, you can also use TOD designations for securities and other investments.

The Best Trust To Avoid Probate

The best trust to avoid probate is a revocable living trust, also known simply as a living trust. This type of trust is one of the most effective estate planning tools for probate avoidance.

Living trusts offer several benefits:

  • Probate Avoidance: The primary advantage of a revocable living trust is the ability to avoid probate altogether. Since the trust owns the assets, they are not subject to the probate process upon your death.
  • Privacy: Unlike probate, which is a public process, a living trust allows for private distribution of assets. This confidentiality helps protect your family’s privacy and prevents potential disputes among beneficiaries.
  • Incapacity Planning: A living trust enables you to plan for incapacity by appointing a successor trustee to manage your affairs if you cannot do so yourself. This forethought ensures a smooth transition of control without the need for court intervention.
  • Flexibility: The revocable nature of the trust means you can amend or revoke it during your lifetime if circumstances change.

However, it’s essential to consult with an estate planning attorney to determine if a revocable living trust best fits your needs and financial situation.

How To Avoid a Probate Attorney After Death

Now that we’ve answered, “How do you avoid probate?” the next logical question is, “How do you avoid a probate attorney?”

There are several steps you can take as part of your estate planning to minimize the need for legal intervention:

  • Create a Thorough Estate Plan: A well-structured estate plan that includes a revocable living trust, beneficiary designations, and joint ownership arrangements can reduce the need for a probate attorney’s services. Work with an experienced estate planning attorney to create a comprehensive plan that aligns with your goals.
  • Regularly Update Your Estate Plan: Major life changes, such as marriages, divorces, births, and deaths, can impact your estate plan. Periodically review and update your estate plan to ensure it remains relevant and reflects your current wishes.
  • Communicate With Your Family: Discuss your estate plan with your family and chosen beneficiaries. Informing them about your wishes and the structure of your estate can prevent misunderstandings and disputes that might otherwise necessitate legal intervention.
  • Transfer Assets Outright: If you can, transferring assets to chosen beneficiaries outright before death can help avoid probate. However, only do this if you’re sure of your family’s intentions and understand the tax consequences.
  • Gift or Give Away Assets: Utilizing various gifting strategies such as lifetime giving or an annual exclusion gift allows you to bestow a certain amount to each individual without incurring gift tax. Giving assets reduces the value of your estate and potentially avoids probate on those specific assets. 
  • Utilize Probate Avoidance Strategies: As discussed previously, various strategies exist to reduce or eliminate probate. These include using TOD designations, joint ownership arrangements, and revocable living trusts. Again, it’s essential to consult with an attorney to ensure you’re taking the most suitable approach for your estate plan. 

By implementing these strategies and maintaining an up-to-date and comprehensive estate plan, you can increase the likelihood of avoiding the involvement of a probate attorney and ensure a smoother transfer of your assets to your beneficiaries following your wishes.

How To Avoid Probate for a Home

Real estate is a significant asset that often goes through probate, but there are ways to avoid it:

  • Transfer-on-Death Deed (TOD)
  • Joint Tenancy With Right of Survivorship
  • Revocable Living Trust

You can also create a life estate deed, which allows you to retain the right to use and live on the property during your lifetime while designating a beneficiary to inherit the property after your death.

How To Avoid Probate on Bank Accounts

You may structure your bank accounts to bypass probate, such as a revocable living trust, transfer-on-death deed (TOD), and gifts and lifetime giving.

Other strategies include:

  • Payable-on-Death (POD) Designation: Most banks offer the option to designate a payable-on-death beneficiary for your bank accounts. The funds will transfer directly to the named beneficiary upon death, avoiding probate.
  • Joint Accounts: Opening a joint bank account with the right of survivorship allows the co-owner to inherit the account’s balance upon your death without probate.

Your estate planning attorney can guide you on which strategies best suit your financial situation. With thorough estate planning and the right approach in place, you can significantly reduce or even eliminate the need for probate on bank accounts. This strategy allows your beneficiaries to receive the funds more quickly and efficiently, per your wishes. Additionally, it can save your family the time, money, and hassle associated with the probate process.


Avoiding probate can provide significant benefits for you and your loved ones. By employing strategies such as establishing a revocable living trust, designating beneficiaries, authorizing joint ownership, and updating your estate plan regularly, you can protect your assets and ensure a smooth transfer of wealth to your heirs. 

Remember to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to tailor these strategies to your unique circumstances, safeguarding your estate and leaving a lasting legacy for generations.

If you need help with probate avoidance or any other estate planning matters, contact Tabor Law today. We can help you explore your options, create a comprehensive estate plan that meets your goals, and provide peace of mind knowing your assets are protected. With a well-crafted estate plan, you can ensure the legacy you leave behind is meaningful and enduring. 

Get in touch with us today to learn more!

Cathy Tabor

Live your best life now. I help you create your happily ever after through estate planning for you, your family, your pets, and your assets.

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