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Do I always transfer property through probate?

If you learn that you are selected to be an executor to a loved one’s estate, the responsibilities could be overwhelming. After all, the process of legally transferring property and assets from the deceased to heirs or beneficiaries (and even creditors) is not something that people do every day. Also, if there are disputes over who is entitled to receive the property, this can be daunting.

But it is good to know that not everything identified in a will must be transferred through a probate proceeding (i.e. by order of the court).  This post will identify some common assets that need not be probated. 

Life insurance proceeds – Distributions that are incident to a life insurance policy generally do not need to go through a probate court. Instead, once the insurance company has proper notification and proof of the policy holder’s death, the assets can be duly transferred to those listed as beneficiaries on the policy.

Property held in joint tenancy – As a matter of law, if the deceased holds property in joint tenancy with another person, his or her interest will automatically transfer to the other person.

Property held in trusts – Similarly, property held in a trust may pass from the deceased person to appropriate beneficiaries. Naturally, the trustee who manages the trust is responsible for managing the transfer, but this may be completed outside of a probate court proceeding.

If you have additional questions about transferring assets, but are not sure about whether probate is needed, an experienced estate planning attorney can help.