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Do I always transfer assets through probate court?

If you learn that you are tapped to be an executor, the responsibilities that come with administering an estate can 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.

However, it may be comforting to know that not everything identified in a will must be probated (i.e. declared transferable, or transferred, 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 – In the same vein, property held in a trust passes from the deceased person to the beneficiary identified in the person’s will. Of course, the trustee who manages the trust is responsible for managing the transfer, but this does not have to do with probate court.

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

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