What is Considered Part of a Deceased Person’s Estate?

When someone passes away, their “estate” includes all the assets and liabilities that were in their name during their lifetime.

Anything that is individually owned by or titled in only the name of the deceased person becomes part of the probate estate and must go through probate court.

For property that doesn’t have a deed or title, it is property that the decedent owned personally.

What Property is Subject to the Probate Process?

An example of assets that are subject to a probate legal process (with a few exceptions) are:

1.     Real Property, such as:

a.     A home;

b.     Undeveloped land;

c.      Farm land;

d.     Commercial property; or

e.     Any other land that the decedent has an interest in.

2.     Tangible Personal Property, such assets as:

a.     Personal belongings;

b.     Household goods;

c.      Vehicles;

d.     Jewelry;

e.     Artwork;

f.      Tools and equipment; and

g.     Other valuable possessions.

3.     Intangible Personal Property, such as:

a.     Bank Accounts;

b.     Investment accounts;

c.      Stocks & Bonds;

d.     Insurance policies; or

e.     Other investments or capital.

4.     Business interests, whether owned individually or owned with other shareholders.

5.     Any debts, such as:

a.     Mortgages;

b.     Personal Loans;

c.      Credit cards; or

d.     Other obligations.

As noted above, it is important to know that not everything becomes part of the estate and must pass through probate.

Is it Possible to Bypass the Probate Process?

Any property that is jointly owned with a right of survivorship does not become part of the estate and passes directly to the other owner outside of probate.

Examples include real property jointly owned by a married couple, joint ownership on a bank account, or co-owners on a vehicle.

An important distinction is that jointly owning real estate with someone else does not mean their share passes to the other owners in every case.

How Do I Receive a Share of Real Estate from a Deceased Person?

To receive the decedent’s property share of real estate there has to be an express right of survivorship.

Also, if there is property owned by the decedent that has a designated beneficiary, that property will also pass directly to the person or persons named as the beneficiaries.

This could be assets such as life insurance, certificates of deposit, retirement, bank accounts,, or any other asset that has a legal avenue for designated beneficiaries.

If you have questions about what may be part of your estate and what could go through probate court, as well as how to ensure your family members get the correct part of the remaining property in your estate, you should contact an experienced probate attorney to discuss how to ensure that property goes to who you want it to.

Good estate planning can also avoid the probate laws completely. Don’t wait until it’s too late.