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What assets go through probate?

Typically, a person’s entire estate, i.e. everything they own, will go through probate, but there are some exceptions. Life insurance policies, bank accounts, and retirement funds can be configured to avoid probate, but depending on the circumstances more steps may be necessary or advisable. Assets in a trust also do not go through probate but are governed through the terms of the trust.

What is probate?

Probate is the legal process of making sure the inheritance of a deceased person’s estate is distributed to the correct heirs and that all the terms of the will are fulfilled. In probate, a last will and testament is verified to be legal, then carried out per the deceased person’s wishes. If there is no last will, the distribution to heirs is decided based on the default allocation under the law.

How long does probate take?

For small estates, it may take only months, but for large estates, it could take years as it is public and can be contested.

Key Points Regarding Probate

Avoiding Probate

The cost of probates vary per estate, but it can cost up to 10-15 times what a trust administration would have. Having a will alone will not enable you to avoid probate. If the decedent has a living spouse, the spouse may have a right to claim a portion of the assets in the estate without going through probate. Any person that holds assets jointly with the decedent may be able to become sole owner of those assets without going through probate.

Some assets can avoid probate under the right conditions, referred to as nonprobatable assets. These include:

  • Life insurance death benefit which pays directly to a named beneficiary

  • Payable on death accounts which are checking, savings, or retirement accounts with beneficiaries assigned

  • Assets in a trust which are governed by the trust’s terms.

Even nonprobatable assets may be best handled by placing them in a trust. We can help you determine when to use each option.


Broderick Legal Group Cares

We care about our clients. We understand how important it is to be prepared and plan for your family in the event of a death. With our experience in the areas of estate planning, trusts, and probate, we know the latest in laws, including the taxation laws to protect your estate. We are also experienced in litigation in these areas. Contact us now for a consultation.

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