It may be beneficial for you to take steps now to reduce the number of assets that must pass through probate court at your death. The associated attorney and executor fees for administering a probate estate can be considerable. These fees can be based on a percentage of the assets in the estate, or they may be based on the lawyer’s time and expertise required. Many people think that the cost of probate court proceedings themselves are very high, but actually, this cost is only a fixed sum: usually $250 in Hamilton County, Ohio.
Methods of Probate Avoidance
There are three basic ways to avoid probate court, each with different benefits and some disadvantages. 1. Designating a beneficiary or beneficiaries on an asset. Retirement accounts and life insurance policies typically list beneficiaries. You can also name transfer-on-death (TOD) or pay-on-death (POD) beneficiaries on other assets such as bank accounts, investment accounts, individual stocks, and in Ohio, even vehicles and real estate. 2. Registering an asset jointly with rights of survivorship (JTWROS). This is a good planning option for spouses, but it is generally not a good option if the joint owner is not your sole beneficiary. 3. Creating a trust and titling an asset in the name of the trust, or listing the trust as a beneficiary. (See Is a Living Trust Right for You?)
In order to determine the most advantageous estate planning tools for your unique situation, it is always best to consult with an estate planning attorney, particularly one familiar with the tax consequences of various planning strategies. At Niehaus Law Office, LLC, we can assist you in making the most beneficial estate planning decisions to help protect your assets during your lifetime and reduce taxes, expenses, and difficulty for your heirs.