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You can speed up the inheritance process on some of your assets

By having a well-thought-out and professionally drafted estate plan, you help ensure that your loved ones and other beneficiaries will inherit your assets as you intend. You also help minimize the time, expense and stress of settling your estate for your family. Further, you can put powers of attorney in place to make sure that people you trust will handle your financial obligations and oversee your health care wishes if you're incapacitated and unable to do these things.

In addition, there are some important steps you can and should take to help important assets be quickly and smoothly transferred to those you designate without having to go through probate. Two important ones involve joint ownership and beneficiary designations.

Joint ownership

You can have joint owners on bank accounts, homes and other valuable property such as vehicles. With real estate, this can be accomplished via a joint tenancy deed. Of course, that means that the person or people you're making joint owners have share ownership of the property while you're still alive. Therefore, it's essential to be careful whom you choose. Further, if you want your joint owner(s) to inherit the property immediately upon your death, the word "with right of survivorship" must be included on the deed.

Joint owners of a bank account also have access to the funds while you're alive unless you designate them as "pay-on-death" (POD) beneficiaries. Many people choose that option. That brings us to the next means of enabling loved ones to inherit assets promptly when you pass away

Beneficiary designations

These can be used for most types of financial accounts, including retirement plans, investment accounts and insurance policies in addition to traditional bank accounts.

Designating beneficiaries is typically a simple process and can save your loved ones considerable time and hassle later. However, if you decide to change your beneficiaries, you need to do so through the institution or company that holds the assets. Too often, people make the changes to their estate plan, but neglect to change the beneficiary designation on the account or policy. The entity where the asset is kept must abide by your beneficiary designation with them.

Joint ownership and beneficiary designations are a crucial part of estate planning. However, they need to be done properly to ensure that your wishes are carried out with a minimum of fuss. Experienced legal guidance is important.

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