What Assets Will Go to Probate?
It’s important to understand the probate process can occur with or without a will and assets can go into the probate process without proper planning. Some assets have to be addressed in your estate plan to avoid probate. Failure to do so can stop the beneficiaries from legally obtaining ownership of the asset or property in question, even with a will or estate plan.
Assets That Can Avoid Probate
If you have a joint banking account with a spouse, the account can bypass probate when the spouse passes because one of the two owners retains active ownership of the account.
It’s important to clarify here that usage and familiarity do not equal ownership. Two people may have access to a bank account while only one of them has the actual ownership and if that owner passes away, the other user does not automatically receive ownership of the account. Make sure you are the joint owner of that account.
If you have a life insurance policy, and that policy names you as the beneficiary, the policy gets to avoid the probate process. Also, with life insurance policies, if the named beneficiary cannot accept the funds for any reason or the estate’s representative fails to claim the policy within a set time frame, the insurance company may elect to distribute the funds to another family member without having to go through the probate process.
The same rule applies to other assets designated to a specific beneficiary. So if you’ve got a retirement plan or any kind of payable-on-death account, make sure you’ve got a beneficiary named for each account. Be sure to take a look at that plan on a regular basis. You may decide to change those plans to address new life circumstances. But regardless of who you name, the accounts will stay out of probate.
-Money in the Bank
Going along with the account ownership example, some cash and monies in bank accounts can forego the probate process. Certain employers could provide wage compensation to the surviving family members without needing approval from the probate court. If the surviving family member wishes to access the funds in the account owned by the deceased, they will need to provide a certified copy of the individual’s death certificate and proof all funeral expenses have been addressed.
Depending on the laws of a given state, assets that don’t require the probate process can also include any property held in a living trust and vehicles/household goods that can immediately be transferred to the surviving family members. An experienced Florida estate planning attorney like Jim Nici can help you with Florida laws.
For more questions about probates and assets, contact Naples Estate Planning Attorney Jim Nici at (239) 449-6150 today. Let us use our experience and expertise to help you make the best decisions to secure your assets.