Tricks to Avoid Probate

In Nevada, probate is often expensive, lengthy, and emotionally straining, so whenever possible, we encourage our clients to seek alternative options. A knowledgeable estate planning lawyer can help you minimize the complications and risk of probate. Below are a few options we can help you consider.

LIVING TRUSTS

Creating a living trust functions to protect your assets during their transfer, including real estate, financial accounts, vehicles, etc. When you establish a trust, you designate an individual to become the trustee when you have passed away, also known as a successor trustee. As acting trustee until your death, you must transfer ownership of all your assets to yourself — it is at this point the assets are controlled by the legal terms of the trust. After you pass away, the successor trustee is then able to transfer ownership to the beneficiaries as they are named in the trust, and they are able to do so without any costly court oversight.

JOINT OWNERSHIP

When property is jointly owned, it is regulated by what is known as “right of survivorship”. This means that if one of the owners dies, the other surviving owner automatically becomes the sole owner. Assets that are jointly owned can avoid probate, but they require the appropriate paperwork to prove that whatever property in question was in fact jointly owned.

In Reno, Nevada, there are two forms of joint ownership:

  • Joint tenancy: A property held in joint tenancy passes to the surviving owners when one owner dies, avoiding probate. Joint tenancy works well when couples acquire valuable property such as real estate, vehicles, and bank accounts and each joint tenant owns an equal share.
  • Community property with right of survivorship: In Nevada, all assets acquired during marriage are held jointly unless otherwise specified as separate. If community property is held with the right of survivorship, it automatically passes to the survivor when one spouse dies.

PAYABLE-ON-DEATH DESIGNATIONS FOR BANK ACCOUNTS

In Nevada, a bank account can be designated as “payable-on-death” (POD). This means that when you die, the designated beneficiary can retrieve the money from the institution without probate. While you are alive, your POD beneficiary will have no access to or control over your funds.

TRANSFER-ON-DEATH REGISTRATION FOR SECURITIES

Similarly to a POD designation, stocks and bonds held in Nevada, like brokerage accounts, can be placed into a transfer-on-death (TOD) form. With these accounts, your beneficiary can transfer the account into their name immediately when you pass away. This type of account does not require probate.

TRANSFER-ON-DEATH DEEDS FOR REAL ESTATE

Nevada real estate can be transferred upon your death with a transfer-on-death deed, or a “deed upon death.” This can be recorded directly on the deed in the present, and as with any deed, you can choose to revoke it or sell the property. This avoids the need for probate, and the inheritor named on a deed has no rights to the property until after your death.

TRANSFER-ON-DEATH REGISTRATION FOR VEHICLES

Nevada also permits transfer-on-death registration of vehicles. This allows your named beneficiary to inherit the vehicle after your death without the need for probate.