The probate process can create many inconveniences for the survivors of a loved one. Those with significant assets may look for ways to avoid probate, but those with few assets may equally benefit from planning to avoid it if possible. If real estate is the only asset to consider, this can be handled efficiently.
Living trusts can be effective for dealing with real estate as well as other assets, keeping those holdings out of probate and allowing for their effective dispersal to heirs. A property owner would need to change the title of the real estate in question so that it is registered in the name of the trust. A deed must be correctly prepared and recorded to make this change effective. One of the most important advantages of this approach is that the grantors will still maintain control of the asset during their lifetimes.
Another way for addressing real estate is to adjust a title to create a right of survivorship. For a spouse, a deed should be changed to include the spouse if that individual has not previously been listed on the document. Tenancy by the entirety is a phrase that is used to designate the right of the spouse to continue to hold the property after the death of the other party. If the continuing ownership will involve someone other than a spouse, the deed should be adjusted to designate both parties as joint tenants with the right of survivorship.
Because real estate documents must be correctly drafted and recorded, it may be advisable for a lawyer to review them for accuracy prior to making and recording these types of changes changes. A lawyer may also be helpful for identifying the benefits of a will or a living trust for handling properties. In some cases, individuals may have additional assets that warrant management through the establishment of trusts.
Source: SF Gate, “How to Avoid Probate When Real Estate Is the Only Asset to Transfer?”, accessed on Jan. 27, 2015