As you assemble your estate plan, you realize how the probate process may hamstring your efforts to have your heirs and beneficiaries receive their assets as quickly as possible. Which assets should you worry about most?
AARP reviews assets commonly subject to probate. Prepare yourself and your beneficiaries for the road ahead.
Not subject to probate
Assets that pass directly to your heirs include life insurance policies with a living heir, assets placed in a living trust and annuities with a named and living beneficiary. If you have a living and noted beneficiary on your investment, joint or retirement accounts, you do not have to worry about them going through probate court, and the same applies to “transfer on death” and “payment on death” accounts.
Subject to probate
Do you have real estate you own with someone other than your husband or wife? Assets labeled “tenants in common” must complete the probate process. Assets with only your name attached to them, such as a motor vehicle, may also go through probate before passing to your intended beneficiary.
You have options for sidestepping probate. For example, you may name a beneficiary on non-probate assets. For such assets, double-check that you do not list your estate, as that leaves the asset up for grabs for probate.
If you marry, divorce, have a child or experience a beneficiary’s death, revisit your assets and their named beneficiaries. Keeping your financial accounts current may help relieve doubt regarding your wishes for the person inheriting assets.
New Jersey’s probate process does not have to turn into a nightmare. By understanding more about estate planning, you give yourself and your beneficiaries peace of mind.