Avoiding Probate in Maine (2024)

How to save your family time, money, and hassle.

By Mary Randolph, J.D. · UC Berkeley School of Law

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Probate court proceedings (during which a deceased person's assets are transferred to the people who inherit them) can be long, costly, and confusing. It's no wonder so many people take steps to spare their families the hassle. Different states, however, offer different ways to avoid probate. Here are your options in Maine.

Living trusts

In Maine, you can make a living trust to avoid probate for virtually any asset you own—real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, and so on. You need to create a trust document (it's similar to a will), naming someone to take over as trustee after your death (called a successor trustee). Then—and this is crucial—you must transfer ownership of your property to yourself as the trustee of the trust. Once all that's done, the property will be controlled by the terms of the trust. At your death, your successor trustee will be able to transfer it to the trust beneficiaries without probate court proceedings.

Joint ownership

If you own property jointly with someone else, and this ownership includes the "right of survivorship," then the surviving owner automatically owns the property when the other owner dies. No probate will be necessary to transfer the property, although of course it will take some paperwork to show that title to the property is held solely by the surviving owner.

In Maine, this form of joint ownership is available:

  • Joint tenancy. Property owned in joint tenancy automatically passes to the surviving owners when one owner dies. No probate is necessary. Joint tenancy often works well when couples (married or not) acquire real estate, vehicles, bank accounts or other valuable property together. In Maine, each owner, called a joint tenant, must own an equal share.

Payable-on-death designations for bank accounts

In Maine, you can add a "payable-on-death" (POD) designation to bank accounts such as savings accounts or certificates of deposit. You still control all the money in the account—your POD beneficiary has no rights to the money, and you can spend it all if you want. At your death, the beneficiary can claim the money directly from the bank, without probate court proceedings.

Transfer-on-death registration for securities

Maine lets you register stocks and bonds in transfer-on-death (TOD) form. People commonly hold brokerage accounts this way. If you register an account in TOD (also called beneficiary) form, the beneficiary you name will inherit the account automatically at your death. No probate court proceedings will be necessary; the beneficiary will deal directly with the brokerage company to transfer the account.

Transfer-on-death deeds for real estate

Maine now allows you to leave real estate with transfer-on-death deeds, also called beneficiary deeds. You sign and record the deed now, but it doesn't take effect until your death. You can revoke the deed or sell the property at any time; the beneficiary you name on the deed has no rights until your death. Maine Rev. Stat. Ann. Title 18-C, §§ 6-401 to 420.

Transfer-on-death registration for vehicles

Maine does not allow transfer-on-death registration of vehicles.

Simplified probate procedures

Even if you don't do any planning to avoid probate, your estate may qualify for Maine's simplified "small estate" probate procedures. For more details, see Probate Shortcuts. For more on avoiding probate, see 8 Ways to Avoid Probate, by Mary Randolph (Nolo).

Avoiding Probate in Maine (2024)


Avoiding Probate in Maine? ›

In Maine, you can make a living trust to avoid probate for virtually any asset you own—real estate, bank accounts, vehicles, and so on. You need to create a trust document (it's similar to a will), naming someone to take over as trustee after your death (called a successor trustee).

What assets are exempt from probate in Maine? ›

Listed below are some of the non-probate assets available in Maine.
  • Any property in a living trust.
  • Life insurance policies.
  • 401(k)s, IRAs, other retirement accounts.
  • Securities in transfer-on-death accounts.
  • Pay-on-death bank accounts.
  • Joint tenancy real property.
Feb 16, 2024

Do wills have to go through probate in Maine? ›

Having a Will does not avoid probate.

These types of assets include certain jointly owned assets, assets with certain beneficiary designations, and assets owned by a trust. These assets are called “non-probate” assets and transfer to your beneficiaries by other means.

How do you get around probate? ›

A revocable trust allows you to maintain control of your property during your life, and decide how the property is distributed after death, without needing to go through probate court. Your trust can include your home and any other assets you have, making it a comprehensive solution for your entire estate.

Which of the following is one of the best ways to avoid probate? ›

5 Ways To Avoid Probate Court
  • Transfer Property To A Revocable Trust. ...
  • Give Away Your Property. ...
  • Create A Will. ...
  • Prepare Payable-On-Death Accounts. ...
  • Take Advantage Of Joint Ownership.
Jul 18, 2023

How do I avoid probate in Maine? ›

Certain kinds of property can be passed without going through probate. Property owned with a “Right of Survivorship” automatically transfers to the joint owner at death and that person owns the property fully. Property can also pass through a Trust established during the decedent's lifetime.

Which of the following assets do not go through probate? ›

First and foremost, there are a number of asset types that typically do not pass through probate. This includes life insurance policies, bank accounts, and investment or retirement accounts that require you to name a beneficiary.

Which of the following accounts avoid probate upon death of an owner? ›

Totten trust, also known as a payable-on-death account, avoids probate because it allows a beneficiary to claim the assets directly. JTWROS, which stands for Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship, also bypasses probate by granting the surviving owner full ownership upon the death of the other.

What is the difference between a revocable and irrevocable trust? ›

A revocable trust and living trust are separate terms that describe the same thing: a trust in which the terms can be changed at any time. An irrevocable trust describes a trust that cannot be modified after it is created without the beneficiaries' consent or court approval, and possibly both.

What is the probate code 5301? ›

(a) An account belongs, during the lifetime of all parties, to the parties in proportion to the net contributions by each, unless there is clear and convincing evidence of a different intent.

What is the best trust to avoid probate? ›

By using a living trust, you can avoid the necessity of the probate process for any assets that are held by the trust, and the distribution of those assets can take place immediately following your death. The living trust works to avoid probate because the trust itself owns any assets you transfer into it.

Why do some dislike the probate process? ›

Because probate is public and difficult to maintain privacy for the deceased person and his or her heirs. A legal document that dictates your desire to distribute your property after death is called a: clause. will.

Which of the following are will substitutes and ways to avoid probate? ›

Common will substitutes include the following:
  • Gift of assets, property or cash;
  • IRA or other pension plans with a designated beneficiary;
  • Life insurance;
  • Joint checking/savings;
  • Jointly owned house;
  • Property assignments.

Which of the following assets are non probate assets? ›

Examples of non-probate assets are: jointly-owned property (car, home, bank accounts, etc.), 401(k)s, life insurance, Transfer on Death accounts, and life estate properties.

How much can you inherit without paying taxes in Maine? ›

Maine Estate Tax Exemption

The estate tax threshold for Maine is $6.8 million in 2024. If your estate is worth less than that, Maine won't charge estate tax on it. If it is worth more than that, you'll owe a percentage of the estate to the government based on a series of progressive rates.

Which assets from the estate of which individual avoid probate at that individual's passing? ›

Assets like health or medical savings accounts, life estates, life insurance policies, retirement accounts — including IRAs and 401(k)s — and annuities allow you to name a beneficiary. This means that when you die, those assets will be given directly to the person you appointed without having to go through probate.

Does a spouse automatically inherit everything in Maine? ›

In Maine, if you are married and you die without a will, what your spouse gets depends on whether or not you have living parents or descendants -- children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren. If you don't, then your spouse inherits all of your intestate property.

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