Stephen Cockriel Sept. 15, 2015

Those who wish to avoid probate have a few options at their disposal. First, it may be possible to put assets into a revocable grantor trust. In such a scenario, an individual makes a gift to the trust that he or she is the trustee of. While alive, that person has access to assets inside of the trust and alter or revoke it as he or she sees fit.

Upon the grantor's death, a successor trustee will take over the trust and distribute assets to beneficiaries. As with any other trust, the assets can be distributed without the need to go through the probate process. In addition to avoiding probate, an estate should be set up in a way to take advantage of current estate tax laws. One such change is in how federal estate tax exemptions are handled for married couples.

Under current law, the unused portion of a deceased spouse's exemption can be transferred to a surviving spouse if one spouse passes away. This portability feature was enacted into law a few years ago, but those who created wills or trusts prior to its enactment may wish to consult with legal counsel to ensure that documents still reflect their true wishes.

Those who are interested in avoiding probate may wish to consider talking to an estate planning attorney. It may be possible to work with legal counsel to create or update a trust to meet that current needs. An attorney may also be able to talk about the benefits of a trust including the ability for an individual to possibly have control over those assets prior to his or her death.