Can you keep the family home out of probate?

You know exactly what you want to happen to the family home when you die. It seems like a shame, then, for the property to be stuck in probate for months after you’re gone.

What’s the solution? You have several. Here are some options:

Create a joint tenancy

If you’re the only person currently listed on the deed, you can add someone else as a joint tenant with the right of survivorship. When you die, your interest in the property immediately transfers to the other tenant, bypassing probate entirely.

Giving your heir joint tenancy of your home isn’t entirely without peril, however. Once you’ve listed someone as a joint tenant, they have as much right to the home as you. Their creditors can also come after your home, if they’re so inclined.

Create a living trust

Putting your home into a living trust can allow you to circumvent the problems with joint tenancy and still designate a beneficiary who will automatically gain control of the trust when you pass.

Unlike an heir, who has to wait until your will is settled in probate, assets can be distributed to a beneficiary right away — just like an insurance policy.

Trusts can be complicated to understand, however. A revocable trust, for example, can be changed throughout your lifetime but doesn’t offer any protection from your creditors. An irrevocable trust will protect you from bill collectors, but cannot be changed.

Make sure that you know what exactly you’re doing when you set up a trust or make other estate plans that will impact your future. An attorney can help you strategize to avoid probate (as much as possible) and inform you of the options you have.