Tax & Wealth Advisor Alert: What Property is Subject to Probate?

During the estate planning process, it is important to consider what types of assets make up your estate. Specifically, you should understand the difference between your “probate” and “non-probate” assets. As you might imagine, your probate assets are the ones that must go through probate, a time-consuming and costly process which we previously discussed here.

Contrary to popular belief, a Last Will and Testament will not, on its own, help your estate avoid probate. Whether or not your estate is subject to probate depends on whether your estate consists of probate assets.

Probate assets are those that are owned solely by the decedent, without any beneficiary designations, transfer-on-death designations, payable-on-death designations, or joint ownership with rights of survivorship. Assets titled solely in the name of the decedent must go through probate—a court-supervised process—to be transferred or distributed to your loved ones. The probate process is necessary for these types of assets because only a court can legally transfer title after a person’s death.

Non-probate assets are those with beneficiary designations, transfer-on-death designations, or payable-on-death designations. They also include assets that are titled in the name of a trust or titled as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. Unlike probate assets, non-probate assets will be transferred directly to your beneficiaries upon your death without any court supervision.

Many people seek an estate plan to avoid or minimize the probate process. Probate avoidance strategies can be personalized to your unique circumstances. If you would like more information on estate planning options to avoid probate, please contact attorneys Carl D. Holborn, or Kelly M. Spott.