When working with families dealing with probate on a loved one’s estate, Marietta probate lawyers often find themselves answering a variety of questions about how to avoid probate in the future. There are a whole lot of tools at the disposal of a Marietta probate attorney when it comes to protecting an estate, and each has its pros and cons.
One method that older individuals sometimes consider to keep some assets out of probate is to have their adult children added as “joint owners” of their bank accounts. Essentially, this means that the account, and its contents, becomes the property of not only the parent, but also anyone else named as a joint owner. The intention is that once the parent passes away, the or children can immediately access the money without it ever having to go through probate.
This approach can work, and it’s possible that a Marietta probate lawyer will recommend it as a viable option for passing on assets. On the other hand, he or she might not because adding others to your accounts can lead to other problems. These don’t affect every individual, so you will definitely want to discuss it thoroughly with a probate lawyer in Marietta. That said, some potential pitfalls should be considered.
For one thing, every joint owner will have full access to the account. Even while the parent is alive, the adult child or children could choose to spend however he or she wishes with no legal repercussions. Sadly, many parents have lost their entire income or savings when their children have taken advantage of the situation. To take it a step further, unless every single child/heir is listed as a joint owner on the account, whomever has been named could theoretically keep all of the money without splitting it with siblings.
Another very real concern is that both the parent and the child could also suffer should one of them be in debt. Creditors could demand money from anyone with their name on the account, regardless of who put the money in there. So, if the parent’s Social Security check was deposited but the child (who was a joint owner on the account) owes back taxes, it’s possible that the Social Security money could be seized to pay the debt.
Again, these are just matters to take into consideration. It’s up to you and a good Marietta probate lawyer to determine what will work best for your particular circumstance and situation.
Probate attorneys in Marietta are well aware of how difficult the process can be for families and friends who are grieving, for those who value privacy, and even for those who need to get an estate closed to pay off debts and take care of other obligations. Day in and day out probate attorneys hear about the downsides of probate.
What Is Probate
Probate is a process used by courts in Georgia, as well as across the country, to settle the affairs of a deceased person. This legal process ensures that the estate fills its obligations and that its assets are distributed fairly according to the law. Technically, “probate” refers to the settling of an estate according to a will, but when someone dies intestate (without a will), most people still refer to the process that follows as “probate.” There may be a few slight differences between the processes, but they are very, very similar.
Why Do People Avoid Probate?
There are a few reasons that people want to avoid the probate process, and they’re good reasons most of the time. Examples include:
- It can take a long time.
- It can cost a lot.
- Everything is in public records.
Individuals who engage in solid estate planning before death are often able to take care of the estate better than those who die intestate, or even those who only use a will. For example, a probate attorney in Cobb County GA can help determine when a certain kind of trust could be used to avoid paying more taxes than necessary after death.
When Is Probate a Good Thing?
While many people have been conditioned to think that probate is a terrible thing, probate lawyers in Marietta see plenty of cases where it is quite beneficial. For example, it may be quite difficult to track down all the creditors owed by an estate. By following the legal procedures, there is eventually a cut-off date for any unascertained creditors. This keeps creditors from coming back months or even years later and demanding payment.
Probate can also be helpful in cases where beneficiaries are receiving disproportionate inheritances. It provides an opportunity for parties to make their claims and legally resolve any disputes. Probate lawyers in Marietta GA often see how having this type of forum can lessen tempers while making sure that all parties can be heard before acting on legal precedent.
So, while you will generally hear about why you want avoid probate, it’s good to remember that it certainly has its place in the judicial system. Should you find yourself facing probate, our firm’s probate attorneys in Marietta Georgia are skilled at helping move the estate through the process as efficiently as possible.
If you’re ready to get started with the probate process after the passing of a loved one, please contact our experienced Cobb County probate attorneys at (770) 425-6060 or contact us here to schedule a complimentary case review.