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Ways to avoid the probate process

Developing an estate plan can serve many purposes for residents in Michigan and elsewhere. While the documents contained in an estate plan could help individuals and their heirs sort through difficult decisions at the time of or after a loved one's death, it is important to understand that by simply drafting an estate plan, the probate process can be bypassed or eased.

Many are under the impression that just because an estate plan exists, heirs will not have to go through the probate process. This is a common misconception. And having a will alone certainly means that heirs and beneficiaries will have to go through the probate process to recover the property or assets passed onto them.

One should note that if a will exists, an estate will be probated. However, whoever is designated at the personal representative will need to file that will with the court and open the estate before another party can. In the state of Michigan, there is a 42-day rule. This means that if a representative or an heir has not opened the estate within 42 days, someone else can. Thus, even is everything is addressed and set out in your will, probate could still happen.

The only time the probate process can be avoided is by drafting a trust. While a trust is a great way to avoid probate, it is not 100 percent. There are some exceptions to this rule, making it important that individuals are aware of this and ways to make an effective trust. This means detailing what type of trust is in your estate, what it contains and how it will pass onto to your heirs and beneficiaries.

Many seek to draft an estate plan as a means to avoid probate. Whether that is your ultimate goal or not, it is important to understand why and how probate happens. It is also imperative to understand what mechanisms could help you and your loved ones avoid the probate process in the future.

Source: Wxyz.com, "How to avoid losing everything to probate after your loved one dies," June 15, 2017

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