Estate Planning | Probate vs. Non-Probate Assets

When preparing an estate plan it is not only necessary to look at all of your assets, but you also need to determine which assets are non-probate assets and which are probate assets. Our Cambridge estate planning lawyers are here to help you with probate vs. non-probate assets!

It is important to distinguish between the two because a will cannot control the disposition of non-probate assets. As such, when preparing an estate plan, one must ensure that the joint owners or the beneficiaries are current and in line with your estate planning desires. Additionally, just because an asset is a non-probate asset it does not mean it is not accounted for estate tax purposes. Our Cambridge estate planning lawyers  have compiled the following information so that you can stay informed.

Non-Probate Assets: These are any assets that have an independent beneficiary designation or assets that are jointly owned. Many individuals jointly own their home and bank accounts with their spouses and, as such, upon the death of one spouse, all of the deceased interest in the jointly owned assets passes to the survivor. This type of asset ownership avoids probate and allows the immediate transfer of the asset upon death to the survivor. As noted above, a will cannot control the disposition of these assets.

Additionally, any assets that have a beneficiary designation are usually non-probate assets. The most common types of these assets are life insurance policies and 401(k) (or other retirement) plans, which have designated beneficiaries who will receive the policy amount or plan assets upon your death.

Probate Assets: Personal or household possessions generally comprise probate assets, or probate property, such as artwork, jewelry, family heirlooms, appliances, cars, etc. Unlike with non-probate assets, the disposition of personal possessions can be controlled by a will. Some estate plans place all personal property into a trust to be held and managed in accordance with their desires. As such, the use of a trust can, in some instances, allow one to “control”’ the property after death.

Contact our Cambridge estate planning lawyers  today at 781-674-2562 to speak with an estate planning lawyer about your estate plan goals.