Can probate be avoided?
Yes, but that doesn’t mean that estate administration and tax filings can also be avoided. Strictly speaking, probate involves only the court process of transferring property. Much property passes without court involvement. For instance, jointly owned property goes to the surviving joint owner outside of probate. Similarly, life insurance proceeds and some retirement benefits go to the named beneficiary. (However, if the beneficiary is the estate, the proceeds will still pass through probate.) In most cases, trust property goes to the beneficiaries named in the trust instrument without probate court involvement. So it is possible to avoid the court process by placing all property in one of these forms of ownership. However, that does not eliminate the requirement of filing an estate tax return. Life insurance proceeds, jointly held property and most trust property are all part of the taxable as opposed to the probate estate of the deceased. Where a tax return is required, much of the w