Why COVID-19 Has Made Many Look to Avoid Probate

The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted many aspects of our lives, making many people look to do whatever they can to avoid in-person meetings. This also applies to probate, the process by which an estate is settled. Thankfully, there are some legal moves that you can make to avoid probate.

What Does Probate Involve?

Probate is the process in which a will is reviewed and settled. It is a formal legal process that involves examining a will, confirming its authenticity and disposing of the assets as per the directives established by a will. Probate is not always necessary, but may it be depending on any questions about the authenticity of a will and the size of an estate. The good news is that probate can be avoided with proper planning and an appropriately structured estate.

Why Has COVID-19 Made People Want to Avoid Probate?

This has been the case for at least two reasons. First, people are getting together less often. If at all possible, people are meeting in person less, avoiding major travel and generally trying to conduct as many aspects of their lives virtually. This has certainly been the case for the probate process in New Jersey, where Gov. Murphy has encouraged people to telework whenever possible. It also appears possible that more restrictions will be enacted in the future as COVID rates of illness, hospitalization and death appear to be climbing yet again.

This can create a problem for probate purposes as the process often involves in-person meetings and may require relatives to travel great distances. Additionally, there is no question that COVID-19 has put major financial pressure on many individuals. As of late October 2020, the unemployment rate across the country is 7.9 percent, and the unemployment rate in New Jersey is 11.1 percent. This has put a serious amount of financial pressure on many, which means that countless relatives and survivors need as much financial assistance as quickly as possible. Probate can delay the final distribution of assets. Depending on the size of an estate and any potential pitfalls surrounding it, the probate process can take weeks, months or even years to resolve. Many families simply do not have this kind of time. Furthermore, probate can be expensive. It involves legal bills and court fees. These costs are avoidable, and if you connect with an estate planning litigation lawyer, you may be able to ensure that an estate can avoid probate altogether.

How Can You Avoid Probate?

Thankfully, there are many ways that probate can be avoided, something that is now more important than ever. These include taking the following steps:

Review all accounts and named beneficiaries. Some financial accounts and products will allow users to name beneficiaries upon their death. This may allow a person to skip the probate process and immediately transfer a financial account to someone else in the event of his or her death.

Establish joint accounts. Individuals can establish joint accounts that allow the surviving person to assume control of financial assets in the event of the death of one of the account holders. This is often a simpler way to transfer the control of an asset.

In some cases, probate cannot be avoided. The good news is that attorneys have adapted. Estate planning can often be done virtually, and you can have these conversations with an attorney via Zoom or over the phone. Furthermore, there are now many online notarization options. This ensures that estate planning can continue even if you cannot get together face to face. There are also many other ways that an attorney can help you without holding face-to-face meetings.

If you are looking for an estate planning litigation lawyer, please contact the Knee Law Firm at (201) 996-1200 today. We have decades of combined experience in helping our clients structure their estates to best meet their needs, and this involves avoiding probate if possible.