Mullen and Iannarone, P.C.
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Serving the legal needs of corporations, individuals and
families of Suffolk County since 1972

Avoiding the probate process

One of the major mistakes New York residents can make when devising their estate plans is not using a strategy that allows assets to bypass the probate process. Probate, which can be costly and slow, is a legal process through which assets must pass if they are transferred to beneficiaries via a will.

In the last few decades, several states have introduced probate procedures that make the process more efficient and less costly for estates that do not have an extremely high value. However, in other states, the probate process remains full of delays and high costs.

The costs associated with probate is cause for concern, but the process can also interfere with how the assets of the estate are managed. It can also keep beneficiaries from accessing their inheritances and knowing how much they may actually receive. If the decedent owned assets in multiple states, there might be multiple probate procedures that will have to be undergone.

Another drawback about probate is the lack of privacy. Because it is a public process, the court records can be viewed by anyone, who will be able to learn the value of the estate, the assets included in it, the debts owed by the estate and how the assets were divided.

There are some assets that are not subject to probate by law. They include most types of annuities, retirement accounts, jointly held properties and life insurance. Other assets are protected from probate by being placed into a trust, like a revocable living trust.

An estate planning attorney may consider a client's assets and preferences for those assets when recommending estate planning strategies and tools. Clients may be advised of how certain legal devices may allow certain assets to bypass the probate process.

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