When someone dies and the estate lands in probate court, not all assets have to go through the probate process. When something is in your name only, that’s an obvious asset that would go through probate. Bank accounts, vehicles, and real estate with only your name as the owner generally are subjected to probate court. So, what assets generally don’t go through probate?
Any jointly owned assets generally don’t go through probate. They simply transfer to the surviving owner. It’s called “joint ownership with right of survivorship.” Now, if both owners die at the same time, like in a car accident, then the asset would go to probate before it could be passed on to the heirs. Now, this type of thing happens automatically. So, even if you want your part of the ownership to go to an heir when you die, it doesn’t automatically do that, even if it’s written in your will! So, you may want to ask a lawyer about a form of joint ownership called tenants-in-common. This gives you more control over your own share. Even in this situation though, the asset would go through probate.
Assets with named beneficiaries get paid directly to that person and these assets can avoid probate, generally. If you happen to name a minor as a beneficiary, the court will have to set up a guardianship, because institutions don’t generally pay directly to minors.
Assets protected by a trust can avoid probate. Just don’t have the trust in your will. Testamentary trusts must go through probate before they can go into a trust.
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