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Making Your Estate Lawsuit-Proof

Most people want to bequeath their estate to heirs free of any creditors' claims and fully pay all debts from their estates. But sometimes debts exceed assets at time of death or a lawsuit is brought against heirs. Here are a few suggestions to pass assets on to heirs free of lawsuits or creditor claims:

  • Title all property jointly with a right of survivorship to an intended heir (or as tenancy-by-the-entirety) because jointly owned property passes to a surviving joint owner free of creditor claims against the deceased owner. Note: this is one exception to our prior advice not to own property jointly.
  • Title property to an irrevocable trust funded before you have any creditors.
  • Accelerate lifetime gifts to deplete an estate (being careful to avoid fraudulent gifts).
  • Invest in fixed annuities or other financial investments that will transform wealth into an income stream, which can pass debt-free to survivors.
  • A living trust will not insulate your estate from your creditors but it can provide limited protection and avoid probate as well as know of your death and file a timely claim that meets a statutory time limit.


The best defense is a good offense.