In some states, families with very small estates may be able to use abbreviated probate procedures or avoid probate entirely. Even if you have a larger estate, you may be able to avoid probate with careful estate planning. One common strategy is to give gifts while you are living: you can give up to $13,000 per person to any number of people without worrying about the gift tax. These gifts are then not included in your estate.

It is possible to structure your finances so that significant assets will pass to others outside of the probate process. For example, joint tenancy is a planning strategy used to avoid probate: a house owned by two persons jointly with rights of survivorship will pass directly to the survivor. Contract controlled assets such as life insurance, IRA, and pension plan proceeds go directly to the named beneficiary and are not controlled by a Will and so are not subject to probate. Property in a trust will be governed by the trust provisions without regard to the Will as well. Even if you plan to avoid probate, it’s a good idea to write a Will to account for unforeseen circumstances.

Whether you’re looking to get your own estate in order, or manage someone else’s, Rocket Lawyer can help. Our online interviews make it easy to create personalized legal documents, and you can even Find a Lawyer if you need more help.

Get started Start Your Estate Planning Answer some questions. We’ll take care of the rest.

Get started Start Your Estate Planning Answer some questions. We’ll take care of the rest.