Does a Will Avoid Probate

Legal Article

Does a Will Avoid Probate

Probate is the court proceeding where a will is verified, and an estate is administered according to the terms of the will. Probate is also used where no will exists, in which case an estate will be administered under the terms of state laws. The process includes the collection of assets, the liquidation of liabilities, the payment of taxes, and the distribution of property to heirs. Furthermore, each state requires probate as this process allows the court to check for potential fraud in a person’s last will and testament and ensure that the assets within a will are properly distributed.

Though probate is a common function of state courts, this process is both time-consuming and costly. For example, in the District of Columbia, once you file a will in court, it takes between 9 – 12 months for the court to close the case. In addition, the court costs can equal up to 10 percent of your assets. When combined with attorney fees, your beneficiaries will receive much less than the total value of your assets.

What Does a Will Do

A last will and testament that is properly executed is a legal document that tells a court how a person wants their property distributed after death. Many believe that only wealthy individuals need a last will and testament. However, there are many reasons why everyone should create a last will and testament. Common reasons why most people should create a last will and testament include.

  • You can control who gets what of your assets and how much of these assets they get.
  • Because you control who gets what assets, you can keep assets from people you don’t want to have them.
  • You can identify who will care for your minor child.
  • Your family, friends, or favorite charities will have a faster and easier time receiving your assets once you pass away.
  • You can plan ahead and save money that will pay the taxes on your estate. Additionally, you can choose to donate some of your assets to charity. This helps to offset estate taxes that you may incur.

Does a Will Help Avoid Probate

Many people think that simply creating a last will and testament will allow their assets to avoid probate. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The whole point of probate is to allow the court to prove that a will is valid. Thus, creating a will and listing the beneficiaries to your estate in a last will and testament is useful. With a will, the probate process is much quicker and easier. The reason for this is that the probate court only has to verify the will instead of distributing the assets. However, creating a will does not protect your assets or family from the probate process.

Though a last will and testament does not allow an estate to avoid probate, below are a few thing you can do to avoid probate.

Hold Property Jointly

The benefit of adding a joint owner to your assets is that if you pass away, the asset automatically transfers to the co-owner without having to go through probate.

Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship

If you own property that is in joint tenancy when you die, the assets automatically go to the surviving party without having to pass through probate.

Tenancy by the Entirety

Tenancy by the entirety avoids probate in the same way as joint tenancy with right to survivorship. However, this option can only be used by married couples.

Community Property with Right of Survivorship

If you co-own a property under community property with right to survivorship, when one partner passes away, the asset is automatically transferred to the surviving party.

Create a Revocable Living Trust

A revocable living trust allows you to place your assets and property in the trust. Furthermore, the trust is managed by a trustee. The trustee is someone you designate who will manage the assets and distribute them once you pass away. To avoid probate, you must designate someone else to manage the assets. The reason for this is that once you fund the trust, the trustee will own the trust property.

Create Pay-on-Death Accounts and Registrations

This type of account allows you to list a beneficiary. Thus, when you pass away, the monies in these accounts will automatically be transferred to the beneficiary.


The most extreme way to avoid probate is to simply gift your assets to family or friends. Even if you do not give away every single asset you own, by transferring a few assets through gifts, you will lower the cost of probate. 

Final Thoughts

Overall, it is extremely important that you consult an attorney that understands probate and the estate administration process to ensure that you use the proper documents and place your property in the correct accounts. Doing so allows you to be confident that your assets and family will not have to spend the time and money required to go through probate. With over 20 years of experience, Antonoplos & Associates estate planning and probate attorneys have the knowledge and experience required to assist clients with avoiding probate in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Furthermore, Peter Antonoplos, founder and managing partner of Antonoplos & Associates has an LLM in Taxation from Georgetown University Law Center. With this knowledge, Peter can maximize the cost savings you receive by avoiding probate in DC, Maryland, and Virginia.

Contact our DC Law Office for More Information

Finally, for more information on does a will avoid probate, contact us at 202-803-5676. You can also directly schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys. Additionally, for general information regarding probate law, check out our blog.