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What is Probate and How to Avoid It?

What is probate?

Many people don’t think about probate until someone they care about passes away and their assets are held up in probate court. What is probate? Probate is the official way an estate is settled with the supervision of Hawaii courts. Probate only comes into play when there is no will or a will has been determined to be invalid. On the most basic level, probate helps prevent fraud. Fraud could occur if a person’s assets are taken from who they are intended for. Without proper legal documents and proceedings, this could happen.

During probate, the court has the legal authority to gather and estimate value for the deceased’s assets. Once the value of one’s estate is determined, all outstanding bills and taxes are paid. After all debts are paid in full, the remaining value will be distributed amongst beneficiaries and heirs. Usually, one person either the decedent’s spouse, child, or personal representative, will be assigned by the court to distribute these benefits.

In Hawaii, there are several ways a person can avoid their estate entering probate. But, the most important factor is that all paperwork is handled appropriately and filed before death.

Establish Joint Ownership

One of the ways, Hawaiians can avoid probate court is to establish joint ownership. Joint ownership will help families avoid probate. Under joint ownership, if something is owned with a partner, and “the right of survivorship” applies, the asset can pass to one owner if the other dies. This type of agreement does not have to go through probate court.

Living Trusts

In Hawaii, you can create a living trust for virtually any asset including real estate, bank accounts, and vehicles too. Living trusts are designed to protect a decedent’s largest assets from probate proceedings. It is one of the most popular forms of probate avoidance strategies in Hawaii. Living trusts are relatively cost-effective and simple to set up. However, it’s best to have legal guidance to ensure the trust cannot be challenged in the future.

Designate Transfer-On-Death Beneficiaries

With transfer-on-death benefits, a person’s assets can transfer automatically at the time of a person’s death. Examples of assets that can be handled under this legality include bank accounts, brokerage accounts, real estate, and not securities. Transfer on death benefits do not apply to vehicles in Hawaii.

The guidelines above can help a family avoid the hassle of probate court after a loved one’s death. Taking steps to avoid probate court can ease a family’s burden and allow them to mourn in peace.