When you pass away, your assets and money—or your estate—must go to the rightful heirs and, if you have them, creditors. To ensure this happens, your estate must pass through probate, which can be an expensive and time-consuming process. Your heirs will not receive any part of your probated estate until the entire process is complete. That said, some assets do not have to go through probate. FindLaw explains which assets must pass through probate and which can go directly to heirs.
Generally speaking, any item, bank account or asset that is in your name alone at the time of your death must go through probate if you wish to pass it onto an heir. Examples of assets that may require probate include a home or parcel of land that is in your name alone; an individual bank account; stocks, bonds or other investments you owned by yourself; and tangible personal property, such as jewelry, artwork, antiques, an RV, furniture, cars, etc.
If you co-own property with another individual, such as a spouse, that property goes directly to the co-owner without having to pass through probate. Certain property can also transfer to the named beneficiary without having to pass through probate, even if you do not co-own it with anyone. Examples of property that does not require probate includes a home or land you co-own or share with another person; life-insurance policies or retirement accounts that contain previously named beneficiaries; a credit union or bank account on which you placed “Payable on Death” or “Transfer on Death” document that states the desired beneficiary; and any assets or money you placed in a trust.
You should not use this article as legal advice. It is for educational purposes only.