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Avoiding the probate process

Probate courts in Nevada and around the country have two primary functions with respect to a decedent's estate. If a person dies without a will, the court will apply the state's laws governing intestacy to determine who should receive the estate's assets. When, however, a decedent dies with a will in place, the court will determine if the document is valid. It will also hear challenges to the will if any are mounted.

The process can be lengthy and expensive, and it is public. As a result, many people gear their estate planning towards avoiding it in part or in its entirety. There are a variety of ways in which this can be accomplished.

Even when there is a will, many assets pass outside of probate. For example, a home that is owned by a married couple often is titled as a joint tenancy with right of survivorship. One of the spouses dies, the asset is transferred immediately to the surviving spouse. Assets other than homes can be titled in this manner as well.

Other types of assets that do not go through the probate process are those that are subject to beneficiary designations, such as retirement accounts and life insurance policies. The proceeds go directly to the party that is named as a beneficiary. It is important to note that these designations override any contrary language in a person's will.

There are a few other documents that can be used as part of the estate planning process to avoid probate. An attorney who has experience in these matters might also suggest the use of a living trust with a pour-over will.

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