The probate process is the process by which the majority of property transfers after a death, unless estate planning steps have been taken to facilitate the transfer in other ways. Assets that transfer through the probate process may be subject to estate tax if the estate is a large one. It can also take several months for the probate process to be completed, during which time heirs or beneficiaries will be left waiting for assets and during which time the executor of a will is going to be responsible for managing assets.
Many people want to reduce the number and type of assets transferring through the probate process because of the cost and complexity of probate. In some cases, avoiding probate altogether is a desired goal. If you wish to try to limit probate assets, Nirenstein, Horowitz & Associates can help you to put together an estate plan using things like trusts and pay on death accounts that can make this possible.
We can also provide representation to the executor of an estate, heirs or beneficiaries, and other interested parties during the probate process in Connecticut. Give us a call to find out more about how a Connecticut probate lawyer can help.
List of Probate Assets
Probate assets include most types of real and personal property which are owned only by the deceased, rather than jointly owned. Some of the common examples of assets that will end up transferring through the probate process after a death has occurred include:
- Real property which is titled only in the name of the person who passed away (the person who passed away is called the decedent).
- Personal property owned by the decedent. Most stuff that people own is considered to be personal property. Examples of personal property can include things like your car, furniture and household items, jewelry, clothing, and more.
- Bank accounts if those accounts are solely in the name of the decedent. This also includes accounts held at credit unions and other financial institutions.
- Interests in certain types of businesses. If the decedent had an ownership share or interest in a partnership, corporation, limited liability company (LLC) or owned a sole proprietorship, the business interest and/or the company and its assets can pass through probate. This is often a problem because the value of business assets can push an estate value over the limit for estate taxes, and there may not be enough liquid cash to pay those estate taxes if the wealth is tied up in the company.
- Life insurance policies which list the decedent or the estate as a beneficiary on the policy.
- Brokerage accounts which list the decedent or the estate as the beneficiary on the account.
There may also be additional assets owned by the deceased which are considered probate assets. The executor of an estate has an obligation to make an accounting of probate assets. A probate lawyer can help with this process.
List of Non-Probate Assets
There are certain assets which do not have to transfer through the probate process after a death. Assets that are considered non probate assets include:
- Property which is jointly owned, if it is owned as a joint tenancy with rights of survivorship or as tenants in common. The property can pass automatically outside of probate to the joint owner.
- Brokerage accounts and bank accounts which have joint ownership if owned as a joint tenancy with rights of survivorship. Again, the accounts will pass directly to the co-owners of the accounts.
- Bank and brokerage accounts which have payable on death beneficiaries. These accounts have named someone who will automatically inherit outside of probate.
- Life insurance policies which list a beneficiary who is not the deceased or not the estate. You should make certain when purchasing insurance that you name someone else as the beneficiary to avoid having the policy proceeds get tied up in probate.
- Retirement accounts: Accounts like 401(K)s and IRAs can pass outside of probate and can pass to the designated beneficiary on those accounts.
- Assets held in trust: Trust assets will pass through a process called trust administration rather than through the probate process.
Nirenstein, Horowitz & Associates can help you to try to avoid the probate process during your estate plan by making sure as many of your assets as possible are non-probate assets.
Getting Help from A Connecticut Probate Lawyer
For help trying to avoid probate and for assistance during the probate process, contact Nirenstein, Horowitz & Associates today. You can give us a call at 860-548-1000 or contact us online to speak with a member of our legal team and find out how a Connecticut probate lawyer can help you.