After a loved one's death, it is common for surviving family to have concerns over what will happen to the decedent's assets. Hopefully, the person will have created an estate plan that gives at least some guidance on property distribution and other important information. It may also help surviving loved ones to understand probate and how assets are distributed.
While some New York residents may understand that probate is the legal process through which the will is validated and assets are distributed, not all assets go through this process. Some people may assume that the will is the end-all document that dictates who gets what. However, this document and the probate proceedings only address probate property. This type of property includes personal property, real property and bank accounts, for example.
For nonprobate assets, the property is typically distributed through beneficiary designations. Property like retirement accounts, pensions, life insurance policies and other accounts that are payable on death. Rather than having to go through probate, these assets should pass directly on to the named beneficiaries. Of course, if beneficiaries are outdated or have not been named, further steps may be necessary for distribution.
Probate can be a long process, and it can sometimes prove confusing for surviving family hoping to obtain a piece of sentimental property from a deceased loved one. Of course, the proceedings can be even more cumbersome for executors who have the obligation of completing the process. If New York residents have questions or concerns regarding this part of closing an estate, they may wish to speak with knowledgeable attorneys.