In General Estate Planning, Probate/Succession

There are several strategies available that Baton Rouge estate planning lawyers use to help seniors and their families avoid lengthy and costly probate proceedings, including adding someone who is entitled to receive the account at your death or making beneficiary designations on accounts and policies. However, these strategies should only be done under the supervision of an experienced estate planning attorney since there can be many unforeseen risks of such actions.

What is Joint Ownership?

In regards to probate, all assets that are not excluded from probate by law, must go through the probate process since it can’t legally be claimed by someone without a court order. Some banks and financial institutions have account called “Pay on Death” or “Transfer on Death” accounts that may not have to go through probate because the bank or financial institutions is allowed to transfer these accounts to the person or person(s) you designate without incurring any liability for doing so. While this seems simple enough, Louisiana law does allow forced heirs and surviving spouses to make claims against the person you have named as the “Pay on Death” or “Transfer on Death” payee. So, while these accounts will generally avoid probate, you should check with an experienced estate planning attorney if you plan to use these types of accounts.

How Do Beneficiary Designations Work?

Beneficiary designations on financial accounts and insurance policies are also a good way to make sure that those accounts pass to heirs without going through the probate process. However, it’s not always a fool-proof strategy. For example, if a senior makes a minor the beneficiary of a financial account and then passes away, the minor cannot receive the assets free and clear. Instead, an adult guardian must manage the distributions. In that case the probate court will appoint someone who, in some cases, may not be the person that senior would want handling their finances, as the minor’s guardian. And, if the beneficiary passes away before the senior, a new beneficiary will have to be named for the account or policy to avoid probate. This is not always possible depending on the medical state of the senior, so there is a good chance the assets would need to be administered through probate proceedings.

If you want more information about probate, or you want to have your current estate plan examined to make sure you can avoid probate, please contact our Baton Rouge estate planning lawyers at (225) 744-0027 to set up a consultation.


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