Probate Pitfalls: Keeping Your Estate in the Right Hands

Planning for the end of life is a delicate business, whether it’s your own or your loved ones, or both.  That’s because death is many things: sad, frightening, confusing and — if we’re to be honest — occasionally inconvenient.  When property figures into the planning, though, it can become a much more frustrating process.

The word “probate” scares a lot of people, but it doesn’t have to.  Here are some simple tips that can help you move through the probate process more smoothly.

  1. Get a will. Even estates with wills in place will go through the probate process, but it is much, much easier on everyone when you have a will.  Without one, your assets can get tied up for years – and the government might swoop in and take a lot more of those assets than you’d like for them to have.
  2. Check your life insurance. If possible, have it paid out directly to your beneficiary.  If it’s paid out to your estate, the delays can last for much longer than necessary.
  3. Consider joint tenancy. Married couples often make major purchases like homes and car together.  When one spouse dies, the other automatically inherits those possessions, provided A) they’re titled in both names, and B) the surviving spouse can produce a death certificate.  If you’re the surviving spouse planning for your children’s of loved ones futures, consider putting property titles in both your names and the name of the inheritor. (Just keep in mind that all of your debts will pass along to that inheritor, too, if you pass along an asset that needs payments.)
  4. Get a lawyer. The truth is, the probate process can be pretty tricky. It’s not something you want to go alone.  (The Probate Court Clerk will echo this advice.)  Seeking the help of an experienced estate lawyer may cost you some money up front, but it’ll save you a bundle of time, trouble and funds in the long run.

Don’t let your assets fall into the wrong hands.  A little bit of planning now will save an awful lot of time, heartache and aggravation later.


When your family experiences a death or is hurt, contact the family who cares. Call Massengill, Caldwell & Coughlin today at 423.212.5042 to schedule your free initial consultation, or contact us online.