Can I avoid probate if I have a will?

| Jul 1, 2020 | Probate |

As you review your will, you may worry about the impact that probate could have on it. Because probate is often lengthy and costly, it can diminish an estate’s value. You may wonder if you can find ways for your assets to avoid it. In some – but not all – cases, they can.

Wills go through probate

No matter how hard you try, your will cannot avoid probate altogether. In Wisconsin, any estate worth more than $50,000 will go through it. After a judge gives your executor power to fulfill their duties, most items in your estate will disburse in probate court, including:

  • Individual bank accounts
  • Stocks and bonds held by you alone
  • Real estate owned by you alone
  • Real estate owned with someone else who acquired their share at a different time than you
  • Personal property titled in your name alone

Some assets avoid probate

Certain assets can transfer directly to beneficiaries outside of probate. If you hold retirement accounts or life insurance policies that name a beneficiary, these pass down directly to them. Some bank accounts allow for this arrangement, too. If you hold one, it will transfer in a similar manner. Your home can also avoid probate, so long as you own it under a joint tenants with right of survivorship arrangement. For this to work, you must establish an equal share of ownership with your beneficiary on the same deed, at the same time. If this person is your spouse, this arrangement becomes tenancy by the entirety.

Probate can prove time-consuming and costly. While your will’s contents will not avoid it entirely, it’s important to know what property can. By taking the steps to secure the transfer of these assets, you can ensure your estate’s disbursement goes as smooth as possible.