Probate is the process of the probate court validating a deceased person’s will and authorizing the distribution of assets to beneficiaries. It can be time-consuming and costly. Although you want to care for your family after you’re gone, you also want to prevent them from encountering unnecessary challenges while settling your estate.
Here, we discuss various tips you can follow to reduce the cost and time of the probate process in Virginia.
Strategies to Minimize Probate Costs
The best strategy to minimize the cost of probate is to avoid probate entirely. Avoiding probate is possible if you create the proper legal documents during Estate Planning.
Below are the documents you can include in your Estate Plan to avoid probate.
A Living Trust can prevent some assets from moving through probate, such as bank accounts, motor vehicles, and real estate. Typically, you are the trustee when you create the trust. You name a successor trustee to manage the trust when you pass away. You must also name the beneficiary or beneficiaries who will receive the assets held in trust upon your death.
You can include a “right of survivorship” on property you jointly own with another person. Joint ownership with a right of survivorship allows the surviving owner to solely own the property when the first owner dies.
In Virginia, you can establish two types of joint ownership:
- Joint tenancy – Joint tenancy automatically transfers ownership to the surviving owner when one of the owners passes away. Each person owns equal shares of the property.
- Tenancy by the entirety – Tenancy by the entirety is similar to joint tenancy. However, only married couples can create this type of joint ownership of property.
Bank Account with Payable-on-Death Designation
You can add a payable-on-death (POD) designation to your accounts held by a bank, such as a certificate of deposit (CD) or savings account you want to leave to someone when you die. The account is under your control while you are alive. That means your beneficiary can’t access the money. When you die, your named beneficiary can use the remaining funds without going through probate.
Securities with Transfer-on-Death Registration
You can register your bonds and stocks using a transfer-on-death (TOD) form. The TOD beneficiary you choose will inherit the brokerage account upon your death. The assets won’t pass through probate, and your TOD beneficiary can access those accounts once you die.
Real Estate with Transfer on Death Deed
If you have real estate you want to be transferred to a family member, signing a transfer on death (TOD) deed allows your beneficiary to assume ownership upon your death. They don’t have to go through probate to obtain ownership of the asset. However, the deed isn’t effective until your death. That means you control the asset during your lifetime. Your beneficiary has no rights to it while you’re alive.
How to Save Time on Probate
Your beneficiaries can reduce the time it takes to transfer specific assets by completing an Affidavit. Two procedures are available depending on the property you leave behind.
One procedure involves real property you own if you die without a will. According to Virginia Code 64.2-510, your personal representative or heirs can complete an Affidavit and include information such as:
- Names and addresses of all heirs
- A legal description of the real property
- That the deceased didn’t have a will
The court clerk will submit the Affidavit and land records to the revenue commissioner. The revenue commissioner can transfer the real estate and assess the real property in accordance with the land books.
Virginia Code 64.2-601 allows an out-of-court Affidavit procedure if the value of the entire personal probate estate is no more than $50,000. If there is a will, the executor must file it with the probate court.
The Affidavit must state relevant information, such as:
- The will, if any, was probated
- The value of the deceased’s entire personal probate estate is less than $50,000 as of the date of their death
- The names and addresses of all successors
- At least 60 days have passed since the death
- The claiming successor is entitled to delivery or payment of the small asset, and the basis for the entitlement
- The designated successor has a fiduciary duty to safeguard and promptly deliver or pay the small asset under Commonwealth law
- Name of each successor designated to receive the small asset on behalf of all successors
- Appointment of a personal representative isn’t pending or has not been granted in any jurisdiction
Simplify Your Family’s Life with Anchor Legal Group, PLLC
You can simplify the probate process by hiring Anchor Legal Group, PPLC. We will review your estate to determine whether you can create a plan that will allow your assets to avoid probate to save your loved ones time and money.
Call us at 757-529-0000 for a consultation with an experienced Estate Planning Lawyer in Virginia Beach, VA, to learn more about how you can minimize probate time and costs.