- gifting during life;
- titling assets as joint ownership with the right of survivorship;
- transfer on death deeds;
- transfer on death (TOD) forms for brokerage accounts;
- pay on death (POD) forms for bank or credit union accounts;
- beneficiary forms on retirement accounts and life insurance; and
- creating a trust during life that holds assets.
Books can and have been written on this subject. A blog is not a substitute for a lawyer, but rather a venue to create a discussion. Each state has its own laws that need to be followed. But a simple tool that may be helpful is doing a cost benefit analysis. What is the cost of a method listed above versus the cost of probate.
In Wisconsin probate costs 0.02 percent of the probate assets (those without a form listed above). So, if $1,000 in value goes through probate, the fee owed the court will be $2 (1,000 x .002). Compare this with the cost of a trust for example, and you'll have a better idea of whether the probate alternative is a wise move. Now note, probate fees vary widely from state to state. Check with an attorney in your state to determine the rate.
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