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How Are Non-Probate Assets Handled During Estate Administration?

Posted on in Estate Planning

Fort Lauderdale estate administration lawyerAfter a person’s death, their loved ones and/or the personal representative of their estate will need to address multiple issues related to the disposition of their property and assets. During the estate administration process, the executor that was named in the person’s will or another person who is appointed as the personal representative will need to complete the probate process, which involves filing the will in probate court, notifying the decedent’s heirs and creditors, paying taxes and other expenses, and distributing assets to beneficiaries.

While many different types of assets will need to be addressed during the probate process, there are some assets that may be passed directly to beneficiaries outside of probate. Understanding how to address non-probate assets will ensure that the process of administering an estate can be completed correctly.

Types of Non-Probate Assets

During the full probate process, the personal representative will need to take a complete inventory of the assets owned by the decedent and make an accounting to the court for how these assets were distributed to beneficiaries. However, assets that are not considered to be part of the probate estate will not need to be included in the inventory. Non-probate assets can be more quickly and easily distributed to beneficiaries, and they may include:

  • Jointly-owned assets - If a person owned assets together with their spouse, the surviving spouse will usually be able to retain ownership of these assets. For example, if a married couple were co-owners of their home, the surviving spouse will be able to maintain full ownership of the home after the death of the other spouse. In other cases, the decedent may have owned a home or other assets with someone else, such as a child or other family member, and they may have been designated as joint tenants with right to survivorship. This will allow the other person to assume full ownership of the property without the need to go through the probate process.
  • Assets with designated beneficiaries - Certain types of accounts or other assets may have beneficiaries who are designated ahead of time, allowing them to receive these assets in the event of the owner’s death. Most retirement accounts, such as 401Ks or IRAs, will require an account holder to name one or more beneficiaries. Other accounts, such as brokerage or investment accounts, may allow an account holder to designate beneficiaries. Bank accounts may also be classified as payable-on-death, or other assets may be categorized as transfer-on-death, and these assets can be transferred to beneficiaries without the need to go through probate.
  • Life insurance - If someone other than the decedent was named as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy, the benefits paid out usually will not need to be considered during the probate process. However, if the decedent’s estate is the beneficiary, the payout from the policy will need to be distributed through probate.
  • Trusts - In most cases, assets held in a trust will be owned by the trust rather than the person who created the trust, so they will not be considered part of the probate estate. The trustee will be able to distribute the assets to the beneficiaries named in the trust outside of the probate process. However, if a person’s will provides for the creation of a testamentary trust, the executor of the estate will need to account for the transfer of assets into the trust during probate.

Contact Our Ft. Lauderdale Estate Administration Attorneys

At Law Office of Miller & Miller, P.A., we can assist with the estate planning process and determine how a person can take steps to ensure that their assets can be more easily transferred to their heirs outside of the probate process. We can also assist with estate administration, ensuring that executors, trustees, or others will be able to properly distribute both probate and non-probate assets. Contact our Broward County estate planning and probate lawyers at 954-981-9301 to set up a free consultation today.



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