Probate assets are assets that must pass through the full probate process before those assets can be transferred to their new owners. The probate process can be lengthy, with Investopedia indicating it can sometimes take around a year or longer for the affairs of the estate to be wound up and for heirs or beneficiaries to receive their inheritance. The executor of an estate will be in charge of managing all probate assets during this lengthy probate process until finally the new owners can take control.
The long delay in the transfer of probate assets can be burdensome for heirs or beneficiaries who may be counting on an inheritance if a breadwinner has died. Beneficiaries or heirs who stand to inherit after a death need to make sure they know what assets actually have to pass through probate and what property, if any, they can inherit automatically or through faster processes like trust administration.
Those who are making an estate plan should also be aware of what assets have to pass through probate, and which assets do not have to pass through probate. With this information, a person who is planning ahead for the transfer of assets after death could try to reduce the total value of probate assets.
Mark S. Eghrari & Associates PLLC can provide assistance in understanding what is involved in the probate process and in discovering what assets must pass through probate. Give us a call to find out more about the rules surrounding probate assets.
What Assets are Considered Probate Assets?
Probate assets include certain kinds of personal property and real property which the deceased person owed. If the deceased was the sole owner of the property and has not taken steps towards probate avoidance with help from an estate planning lawyer, assets which will be considered probate assets typically include:
- Real property: Real property includes land and buildings or other improvements which were either owned by the decedent as tenants in common (TIC), or which were exclusively owned by the deceased. If the deceased person is the only owner of the property, or if his ownership stake is transferrable upon his death because the property is owned as TIC, then the property will be a part of the probate estate.
- Bank accounts that are held solely by the decedent are probate assets if the accounts don’t include provisions to automatically be distributed to a new owner upon the accountholder’s death.
- Cars, jewels, household items, and other personal property are all part of the estate and are considered probate assets.
- Business interests, including ownership stakes in Limited Liability Companies, corporations, and partnerships.
- Any life insurance coverage designating the deceased person as a designated beneficiary. A life insurer pays the beneficiary outside of probate, so if you make a spouse or child the beneficiary, the insurance pays that person. If you make yourself or your estate the beneficiary, then the death benefit from the insurance will become a part of the probate estate when it otherwise would have gone directly to your friend or loved one.
An experienced attorney can help you to determine, specifically, what assets have to transfer through the probate process. If you are going through the probate process now, a probate lawyer can provide invaluable guidance.
What Assets Can Transfer Outside of Probate?
Some assets are not going to be transferred through the probate process. Examples include:
- Trust property, which passes through to new owners during trust administration instead of during the probate process.
- Jointly held accounts and jointly held real property if the accounts or property had named a payable on death beneficiary.
- Certain types of retirement accounts.
There may also be other assets that you own which can transfer outside of the probate process. You should talk with an estate planning lawyer to find out what your options are for facilitating the timely transfer of assets outside of the formal probate court process.
Getting Help from An Estate Planning and Probate Lawyer
Mark S. Eghrari & Associates PLLC can help you if you are making an estate plan to minimize the amount of your wealth that must transfer through the probate process. In many situations, our legal team can help you to make a plan that facilitates the transfer of all of your wealth without the money and property being considered probate assets. Our legal team also provides assistance to those who are going through probate and who need help making sure the process goes smoothly so they can inherit as quickly as possible.
To find out more about what the probate process means to your estate planning and what the probate process means after a loved one has passed on, give us a call at (631) 265-0599 or contact us online to learn how a probate lawyer can help you.