Probate is the court process by which the property of a person who has died (decedent or deceased) is distributed. Estate administration after a person’s death involves:
- Gathering the assets of the estate
- Paying debts & final expenses
- Distributing remaining assets
A lawyer can assist in every aspect of estate administration.
What Assets are Owned by the Deceased?
There are several types of assets in which the deceased may have owned an interest:
- Solely owned assets
- Jointly owned assets
- Assets held in trust
- Business interests
- Life insurance proceeds
- Retirement accounts
- Open contracts
What are non-probate assets?
If the deceased designated a beneficiary to receive an asset upon the deceased’s death, it is known as a non-probate asset. It may not require any type of estate administration or court filings. These assets pay directly to the named beneficiary and are not transferred under the deceased’s will. They include:
- 401(k) plans
- Life insurance policies
Bank accounts owned jointly with rights of survivorship do not require estate administration (as long as there is a surviving co-owner). If the deceased owned an interest in a business, the governing documents of the business may provide for the transfer of the deceased’s interest without court involvement. In addition, any assets held by the deceased in a trust will likely avoid probate court involvement.