How can I leave my estate to my friend and avoid probate?

I am on a fixed income and don’t think that I can afford a lawyer. Do the kits from the store work legally?

Asked on October 26, 2015 under Estate Planning, New Hampshire

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

The only ways to avoid probate is:
1) To make your friend currently a joint owner of your key assets--e.g. joint bank or brokerage accounts, joint owner of your house, etc. This is obvious negative consequences: if your friendship ends, or if you just know your friend less well than you think, for example, your friend will be basically half owner of your key assets and can take, sell, etc. them, or block you from doing what you want with them.
2) Putting your assets currently in an irrevocable trust that gives you access to them know and your friend access after you pass. But setting up a trust like that is very complicated--it's not recommended to do this without an attorney--and will take your assets out of your direct control.
Probate is not as bad as many fear; for a simple estate, it's just a slight administrative headache and takes a few months to settle. The best for you would be to will your assets to your friend; if you like, gift him/her with some money or assets which you can spare before death, just staying under the annual gift exemption for taxes.


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