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Long Island

Bypass probate with jointly owned assets and named beneficiaries

My daughter lives with me in my condo. When I die I’d like it to go directly to her with the least amount of paperwork or cost. I also have a son, but I’ve stipulated in my will that the condo is to go to her, while the rest of my assets — about $250,000, including $30,000 in IRAs — are to be evenly divided. Do I need a trust? What’s the cost and procedure to inherit property in Suffolk County?

You don’t need a trust. But the fastest, least expensive way for your daughter to inherit the condo would be as its surviving joint owner, so you may want to consider putting her name on the deed.

Jointly owned assets and assets with designated beneficiaries go directly to surviving owners and named beneficiaries. Assets left in your will must first go through probate — the court procedure that validates the will and authorizes your executor to follow its instructions.

However, probate in New York is usually quick and relatively inexpensive; and a will that leaves assets worth under $30,000 doesn’t have to be probated. The court charges $625 to probate a will that leaves assets worth $250,000 to $500,000, and $1,250 if the assets are worth $500,000 or more. It’s very helpful, although not required, to retain a lawyer to handle probate. The most economical attorney’s fees are usually hourly rates or flat fees, rather than a percentage of the estate’s value.

One more thing: Don’t leave your IRAs via your will. To maximize IRA tax breaks for your kids, use the IRA beneficiary forms to name them your beneficiaries. You may also want to designate them as beneficiaries of your nonretirement accounts, says Eric Kramer, a Uniondale estate lawyer.

THE BOTTOM LINE Jointly owned assets and assets with named beneficiaries bypass probate.


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