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Not all assets need to go through probate

| Jun 20, 2017 | blog

In many cases, probate is a relatively simple process. Sometimes, though, it can be drawn-out and confusing. A possible example would be when someone with a complicated estate dies without a will.

In any case, here is a look at some assets that do not need to go through probate.

Jointly owned assets

Suppose you co-own your house with your spouse. If you die, the house passes to your spouse. This holds true no matter if your will says you want your share of the house to go to someone else. If you instead co-own the house with, say, a friend, the house could still go to your friend if joint ownership with rights of survivorship is in place.

It is important to proceed with caution if you want your house or other types of property to eventually end up with your children from a previous marriage or relationship. If you were to die first, your spouse gets the house (as long as there is co-ownership). Depending on what your spouse has planned (or not planned), your children might never get the house. For example, your spouse might die without a will, and the house would go to his or her legal heirs. An attorney can help plan your estate to avoid such an eventuality.

Beneficiaries (with a few exceptions)

Say that you have an insurance policy and/or retirement account. You can name a beneficiary, and when you die, the policy or account passes on to your beneficiary without the need to go through probate. Of course, a few exceptions do exist. For example, if a minor is the beneficiary, the court probably wants him or her to have a guardian. If your beneficiary dies at the same time as you or before you, your policy or account will need to go through probate (a big reason why it can be a good idea to name alternate beneficiaries). There are also a few other exceptions.

Opening certain types of trusts is another way to skip assets going through probate. People who are drawing up a will or going through estate planning generally prefer to avoid probate to make life easier for their heirs and beneficiaries. An attorney can help you figure out if probate might be the best move after all in your situation, or if it is not, what strategies might make it easier.