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How to avoid probate if possible

If you are an executor or have a loved one whose estate is ripe for disputes among beneficiaries, the prospect of going through probate may not sit well with you. After all, the notion of heirs and other beneficiaries fighting over pieces of a person’s estate is not exactly the best way to honor a person’s memory. Indeed, it may not be as extreme as some celebrity family fights (e.g. Robin Williams’ family, Casey Kasum, George Michael), but having to fend off greedy people through probate is something to be avoided.

Because of this, it is helpful to know that not all assets need to travel through probate (e.g. the legal process of transferring legal ownership of property from the deceased to another person). In fact, this post will highlight a few important assets that can avoid probate

Real property held in joint tenancy – Under New York real property law, a person’s interest in property held in joint tenancy would automatically pass to the other surviving tenant or spouse when the person passes away.

Life insurance proceeds –Distributions to beneficiaries from a life insurance policy commonly do not have to pass through probate. This is generally because beneficiaries are identified within the policy. So once the insurance company is notified of the policyholder’s death, and certain documents are signed, the assets can be transferred without the need for probate.

Property held in revocable trusts – Similarly, property held in living trusts, real estate investment trusts, revocable trusts,  etc. would pass to the beneficiary according to the terms of the trust. Indeed, a trustee would manage the transfer or continue to manage the trust.

If you have additional question about administering an estate outside of the probate process, an experienced attorney can advise you. 

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