So what happens after you create a will? After you pass, the probate court supervises the transfer of assets which were held in your name only at the time of death. However, the probate court is not involved in the transfer of your assets which were jointly owned “with rights of survivorship.” In other words, assets which had beneficiaries named do not pass through probate. Those types of assets typically pass outside of probate, i.e., directly to the surviving joint owner or beneficiary. Bank accounts and homes owned by husband and wife are typical examples of a joint survivorship; however, exceptions and exclusions apply.
As you can see, determining whether an asset is a probate asset or a non-probate asset (passing through a joint survivorship) is very important in estate administration. During consultation and in preparation for creating a will, I ask my clients to complete a list of all assets owned. This helps the probate court determine which assets must be listed on the inventory which assets will pass directly to a surviving joint owner or beneficiary. Don’t have a will? Not to worry – I ask the same questions and create an inventory from information gathered from family members.