“How do I avoid probate” is the most frequently asked question I get. Most people hope their assets will avoid the probate process at their death. That is because probate can be expensive, time-consuming and emotionally exhausting. In Arizona, the average probate costs $2,000 – $5,000 and lasts 9 – 18 months.
Besides estate planning such as creating a revocable living trust, there are three things you can do to have your assets avoid probate process at your death.
- Fill Out Beneficiary Forms
Designate a beneficiary on a Payable on Death (POD) or Transfer on Death (TOD) form for your financial accounts such as checking, saving, certificates of deposit, brokerage and retirement accounts. When you die, the beneficiary will show the institution your death certificate and then work directly with them to receive these funds. In Arizona, there is also a beneficiary form for your vehicles, which can be downloaded for free from the AZDOT website.
- Record a Beneficiary Deed
A Beneficiary Deed is a recorded document that transfer the title of your real property upon your death to whom you have named. This protects real property from the probate process. Your beneficiary must record your death certificate and an Affidavit of Survivorship. A beneficiary deed must be recorded before you die.
- Own Assets Jointly
If you have own assets jointly (such as bank or brokerage accounts) then if you die first, the other joint owner will have full control of the asset. Although there will be paperwork to prove the title is held by the surviving owner solely, you yet again avoid the probate process when you die (but not when the second person dies.)
You can also own real property jointly “with right of survivorship.” The surviving owner will own the property fully when the first joint owner dies and the property will not have to go through probate (until the second person dies.) The survivor must record your death certificate and an Affidavit of Survivorship.
Please note, it is typically only legally advisable to own assets jointly with your spouse, not your adult children. Please see an experienced estate planning attorney for an individual consultation.
As you can see, avoiding probate in Arizona is not difficult with a little planning. Make it a goal to complete Step 1 this month. It will only take you a little time and effort.