Property not subject to the probate estate

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Jointly titled real estate with survivorship interests and lady bird deeds

Property owned by the decedent and another person as joint tenants with full rights of survivorship or as tenants by the entirety will not be subject to the probate court. Lady bird deeds also automatically transfer ownership upon the death of the owner.

Jointly held bank accounts

Bank accounts with payable on death clauses will automatically transfer to the intended beneficiaries without having to go through probate court. In some instances, joint holders on the bank account will be able to claim ownership over the account. This situation is clearly established when the surviving account holder is the decedent’s spouse.

In other instances, the surviving joint holder won’t be able to claim ownership over the account. This situation is often disputed when a child is named on the account for the benefit of a parent. If the sole purpose of an individual’s presence on the account was to use the money to pay the decedent’s bills, the money will be subject to probate regardless of the person being named on the account as a joint holder.

Beneficiaries on life insurance, pensions, and IRAs

Life insurance, pension benefits, and IRAs that have named beneficiaries are payable on death to the person intended to receive the distribution without probate. If there is no beneficiary for this type of property, however, then an estate will need to opened up with the probate court, assuming the estate is otherwise valued over $22,000.00.

Estates valued $22,000.00 or less

An estate with a value less than $22,000.00 can be transferred to the beneficiaries of the decedent by presenting a death certificate and an affidavit stating who is entitled to the property. No estate is necessary. This is a nifty tool if the realty is valued at less than $22,000.00 and all other property can be transferred through other means.

Property subject to a trust

Properties owned by a trust do not go through probate. Instead the property is disposed of in accordance with the instructions written into the trust document.

Unpaid wages and tax returns

An employer may pay the decedent’s unpaid wages due to the decedent’s spouse, children, parents or siblings unless the decedent requested otherwise. The decedent’s income tax returns can be collected without opening an estate provided the correct form is filed with the IRS and State.

Cash of $500 or less and clothing

A hospital, nursing home, morgue, or police station may pay cash not exceeding $500.00 and wearing apparel to the decedent’s spouse, children, or parents. The person claiming the property will need to provide identification and an affidavit stating the person’s relationship to the decedent and that there is hasn’t been an estate opened for the decedent.

Vehicles valued less than $60,000.00

The decedent’s motor vehicles can be transferred without opening an estate if the combined value for all of the decedent’s motor vehicles are not worth more than $60,000.00 and no estate has been opened or will be opened.

Watercraft valued $100,000.00 or less

The decedent’s watercrafts can be transferred without opening an estate if the combined value for all watercraft does not exceed $100,000.00.

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