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Part of my practice is spent helping clients solve problems after a parent or spouse has passed away.   Many times, these problems arise because the estate plan included a “shortcut” intended to avoid probate.

Probate is a process to transfer the assets after someone dies. For example, when a homeowner passes, probate allows for the home to be sold or transferred even though the prior owner is no longer alive to sign over the deed to a new owner.

Many have been told probate is a process they should avoid, usually (they are told) because of its cost. To avoid probate, many take shortcuts – sometimes even spending more on the shortcut than probate would have cost!

In some cases, there are legitimate reasons to avoid probate and its cost. But the alternative must be effective. A shortcut must never jeopardize your plan for your assets to go to the people you want under the circumstances you want.

Let me give an example. A client once provided a deed that purported to transfer land from parent to child. It was signed and recorded with the recorder’s office like a typical deed. However, this deed had one significant difference. It provided that the transfer from parent to child would not be effective until the parent’s death certificate was also recorded.

At first glance, this may seem like a great shortcut to avoid probate. Unfortunately, the law does not consider this type of transfer to be valid. As a result, even though the parent has passed, the land has never been properly transferred to the child. Filing for probate now may allow us to get the property transferred to the child, but this is not yet clear.  Other issues will need to be addressed before we will know the answer. Much clearer is the reality that a Will and the probate process would have made sure this land ended up with the intended child.     

Do not take a shortcut that may cost you control over your own estate plan. Come to a free presentation to find out about simple solutions to an effective estate plan.