It’s possible to keep assets that transfer because of death out of probate court. If you do this, a probate court judge (New York State calls them a “Surrogate’s Court Judge”) will not be involved in your estate. This is true whether you die with or without a Will. There can be many advantages to avoiding Surrogate’s Court: less expense for court filing fees and attorney fees; less exposure of your assets to claims of creditors; faster distribution of assets; and greater privacy.
There are simple ways to keep your post-death financial transactions out of a probate court. These include: (a) owning assets as a joint tenant so that the survivor becomes the owner by operation of law (often done with real estate and bank accounts); (b) naming beneficiaries and contingent beneficiaries (for example, life insurance and IRAs); and (c) using TOD (Transfer on Death) accounts.
Less simple ways to keep assets out of probate court include transferring them during your life to a revocable or an irrevocable trust and transferring your home to children with the reservation of your right to live in your home as long as you choose (a so-called “life estate”). In addition to keeping assets out of probate court, these types of transfers can increase the certainty that what you want will to happen does happen and avoid the need to pay for nursing home care privately in order to spend down assets to achieve Medicaid eligibility.
If you’re interested in avoiding estate probate, the lawyers at Bansbach Zoghlin P.C. can help you.