Probate is the way in which property is passed along to the heirs of a deceased person after debts have been paid. Probate is almost always involved regardless of your estate plan. However, the extent in which it plays a role can vary greatly depending on the planning that you have in place.
Died with a will – The court judge simply authenticates the will and gives permission to the executor to make sure that the will is carried out how it is stated. That person is then in charge of liquidating assets if needed, paying off any debts, and distributing the assets according to the will.
Died without a will – The court judge has to appoint an administrator to handle the process. Usually it will go to a relative of the deceased.
Assets that Avoid Probate – Not all assets go through probate.
- Jointly held with rights of survivorship – If there is jointly held property with rights of survivorship such as checking accounts or investments with a spouse, those assets can move directly to the other account holder.
- Assets with beneficiary forms such as retirement accounts, TOD (transfer on death) or POD (payable on death), and life insurance, are distributed according to those forms.
- Assets assigned to trust – If a living trust has been created and properly funded by titling assets to the trust, those assets can usually avoid probate as well.
Disclaimer: Alex Voorhees and Reston Wealth Management do not provide legal, accounting or tax advice. This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized legal advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with an estate attorney. The opinions voiced in this article are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which strategies may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor and other appropriate professionals, such as an estate attorney.