A lot of assets may not be required to go through probate. In fact, almost every person leaves behind some assets that are not required to undergo the probate process. Even when there is a probate court proceeding for the estate, not every asset will have to be included. This is vital information for those handling an estate because when an asset does not have to go through probate, it can be transferred to the individual or people who inherited it much more quickly.
Common Types of Assets that Go Through Probate:
Generally speaking, the probate process is required when a property or asset was:
- owned solely in the name of the deceased individual (i.e. a vehicle titled in the name of that person alone), or
- a share of property owned as “tenants in common” (i.e. the deceased person’s interest in an investment property owned with his sister).
Properties that go through probate are often referred to as the probate estate. When there are assets requiring probate court proceedings, the executor named in the will is responsible for opening the case in probate court and following it through to its conclusion. When there is no will or if the will does not name an executor, the probate court appoints someone to serve in this capacity. Many executors dealing with the responsibilities of probate proceedings choose to work alongside an experienced probate attorney, paying the attorney’s fee from money in the estate.
Common Types of Assets that Do Not Go Through Probate:
There are many assets that do not need to go through probate. If the deceased individual was married and most of their property was jointly owned, or if they did some estate planning to avoid probate, probate court proceedings may be unnecessary. The following types of assets generally do not need to go through probate:
- IRAs, 401(k)s, and other retirement account with a named beneficiary
- Life insurance proceeds (unless the policy lists the estate as the beneficiary, which is a rare occurrence)
- Properties that are held in a living trust
- Funds that are held in a payable-on-death (POD) account
- Securities that are registered in transfer-on-death (TOD) form
- U.S. savings bonds that are registered in payable-on-death form
- Co-owned U.S. savings bonds
- Real estate that is subject to a valid transfer-on-death deed
- Distributions from a pension plan
- Wages, salary or commissions (up to a specified amount) that are due to the deceased individual
- Any property that is held in joint tenancy with the right of survivorship
- Property owned as tenants by the entirety with a spouse
- Community property with right of survivorship
- Vehicles and/or boats that are registered in transfer-on-death form
- Vehicles that go directly to immediate family members in accordance with state law
- Household goods that go directly to immediate family members in accordance with state law
If you have questions about the probate process or if you need help putting an estate plan in place, please get in touch with one of the experienced probate and estate planning attorneys at Aronow Law PC today. We can help you avoid the probate process or minimize the assets included in your estate that would be subject to probate.