When someone passes away, sometimes their assets are required to go through a process in Tennessee courts called probate. Whether or not probate is necessary depends on what types of assets the person left behind, and often the potential beneficiaries of an estate might be confused about what’s owed to them. By understanding what types of assets are required to go through probate and what assets aren’t, you may be able to avoid potential disputes and complications during the process.
What assets are subject to probate?
After the death of a loved one, only some assets may be required to go through the probate process. What this means is that any assets that were solely in the name of the deceased (or “decedent”), or assets that didn’t have any designated beneficiaries, will have to go through probate.
Probate assets include things like real estate, vehicles, and personal possessions like jewelry, household items, clothing, and collections. When an estate’s value is below a certain dollar amount, probate may not be required.
What assets are not subject to probate?
Following are some common types of assets that typically are NOT subject to probate.
- Retirement plans like 401Ks and IRAs that list a specific individual or individuals as beneficiaries aren’t required to go through probate. However, if the retirement plan has no living beneficiary listed or only the estate is listed, the asset will have to go through probate.
- Joint assets owned with others also don’t have to go through probate. Bank accounts, cars or real estate jointly owned are considered non-probate assets, including joint tenants and tenants by the entirety with rights of survivorship.
- Assets with “transferable on death” or “payable on death” designations. These types of assets list specific individuals as beneficiaries and as such won’t be subject to probate.
- Life insurance policies with specific beneficiary designations (other than the deceased’s estate) is also considered a non-probate asset.
All other assets and property solely owned by the decedent will have to go through the probate process. Long story short – some assets are distributed by the court (probate assets) and some assets go directly to named beneficiaries (non-probate assets).
This is why it’s so important to understand what comprises an estate.
How do I know what’s part of the estate?
Many beneficiaries are under the impression that everything a decedent owns is included in the estate and is therefore eligible for division. However, as you can see from the above bullet points, this isn’t the case. You can minimize any misunderstandings or miscommunications by recognizing from the start which estate assets will be required to be probated and distributed, and which won’t.
Once you’ve determined the probate assets, you can work with an attorney to ensure the process goes smoothly and efficiently. Our knowledgeable and experienced team of probate lawyers can answer all your questions and provide guidance if any complex issues arise.
Avoid confusion over distribution of assets and property – talk to the probate lawyers at Wagner & Wagner, Attorneys at Law. Let us help guide you through and expedite the process. We serve clients in Chattanooga and Cleveland, Tennessee. Call us today at 423-756-7923 or complete our contact form to schedule a free consultation.
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