The last will and testament has been around since ancient times and is not going anywhere anytime soon. Most people are surprised at how probate looks at wills and mistakenly believe that not having a will gets them out of probate, but that is not the case. All estates that qualify must pass through the probate courts regardless of the existence of a will, but you can take steps to prevent your entire estate from having to pass through probate. Read on to learn about a few of these clever strategies that are better than a probated will.

Will Overrides

It's important to note that the below methods all override a will. For example, if you leave aunt Martha the silver tea service set in your will but use a revocable trust to leave that same tea service to one of your cousins, then your cousin will receive the tea set. This is true no matter when the instrument was created or modified.

Revocable Trusts

Also called living trusts, these legal instruments are similar but better than a will in many ways. Any property mentioned in a revocable trust need not be sent through probate, and this allows the beneficiaries to access the property months earlier than with a will. Additionally, a revocable trust is private, and a will is not. Wills are considered public information and can be viewed at the county probate office when they are final. A revocable trust can only be viewed by the owner (or creator), the trustee (just like an executor) and the estate attorney who is bound by confidentiality. There are other types of trusts available for those with specific needs, and a pet trust is one the newest on the scene.

Transfer Provisions

This form of estate planning could not be easier to tackle since it only requires you to fill out a form and sign it. Banks, retirement accounts, and investment accounts may be designated to be awarded to anyone you wish upon your death. You can have your entire investment account, for example, awarded to your three adult children in equal amounts upon presentation of the death certificate. That means that there is no need for that particular account to go through probate. This designation is also known as either payable on death or transfer on death provisions at financial institutions.

Speak to your local estate planning attorney services to find out more about the above strategies for avoiding probate and about how you can perform changes to real estate deeds to ease the transfer and avoid probate on that as well.