As a family member’s life draws to a close, you want to make sure you have all of his or her affairs in order. Hopefully, this person has a living will that spells out what happens to the estate and other belongings. Probate courts can help determine the legality of a will. It’s important to know what assets need to go through the court and which do not.
What Doesn’t Need Probate?
There are scenarios in which you shouldn’t have to hire an attorney and go to court over wills and transfer of assets. If any of the following apply to you, these things should go smoothly at the time of your family member’s passing:
- Wages, salary and commission from an employer
- Pension plan distribution
- U.S. savings bonds
- Retirement accounts, including 401k accounts
- Property held in a living trust
- Funds in a payable-on-death account
You May Need an Attorney’s Help
Luckily, most people can include assets in their wills that don’t need to be involved in the probate process or include the expertise of a probate lawyer. However, you should be aware of those scenarios in which the court does need to prove whether the will is binding. This will ensure that the transfer process is legal. Though the court process will take some extra steps and more time, you can have peace of mind to know that a skilled, experienced lawyer can be by your side.
Cases Where Assets Must Go Through Probate
If there are assets owned solely in the name of the deceased person, they will need to go through probate. One example of this is real estate property such as one’s home or business. Transferring such property will require the expertise and authority of a court and legal professionals to determine where it should pass. Another important matter when the probate courts will need to get involved is when there is shared property owned by what is known as “tenants in common.” An example would be if your deceased family member owned a building along with another living family member who had ownership as an investment. The will should name an executor to take the case to probate and help lead it through the case. If the deceased person didn’t have a will to specify an executor, the probate court will appoint someone to act in this position.
Examine your deceased family member’s will so you can determine what items, if any, must go through probate courts. If you’re fortunate enough, you can avoid this step.