Garton & Harris

Is it worth transferring property before death to avoid probate?

Those who are planning the future of their estate often have have concerns about fees when it comes time to transfer their wealth to next of kin. These concerns are amplified for those who own a significant amount of property, as probate fees increase for higher-valued estates. Many homeowners or wealthy individuals in British Columbia have questions about how they might take actions prior to passing away to avoid expenses where possible.

While there are some options that can be explored, alternatives often come at an even higher cost than probate. For example, an aging parent may think it wise for his or her children to buy out their home prior to them passing to avoid probate fees. However, the costs involved in a real estate transaction, such as land transfer taxes, could outweigh the prospective probate costs. Additionally, conflict over the use and upkeep of the home could arise if the parent and intends to remain living in the home even after a buyout from children.

Property owners may also consider putting next of kin on the deed of a home as co-owners, thereby eliminating the need for probate to handle the transition. This may seem like a straightforward option, but it can be a risky move in many cases. Putting a child on a house's deed can leave the property vulnerable in a divorce or bankruptcy.

It is understandable that British Columbia property owners would want to minimize the impact of probate fees on their beneficiaries. Probate can make it necessary for people to sell property in order to liquidate the funds needed to pay the fees, which can be a bind for people. However, the fees involved in probate may be smaller than the costs of alternatives, such as risking adding a child to a house deed or taxes and fees involved in a buyout before death. A British Columbia lawyer can clarify all options that may be available, and help to allow for a smooth probate process should it be necessary.

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