Upon your passing, your estate will go into a system called “probate.” Everything is subject to your will and the applicable laws for its final disposition. The process can be long and complicated, especially if you have a lot of assets.
It’s entirely possible to avoid this, however, by moving assets to “non-probate” status. This includes everything which is not held solely by you in some kind of partnership or trust. If the end is near and you want your heirs to avoid the hassles and cost of probate, there are options.
Generally speaking, all assets that you own upon death are subject to probate. These include anything that you own yourself, including:
- Real estate in your name alone
- Personal property
- All bank accounts, retirement accounts, and so on in your name
- Your interest in a corporation or partnership
These assets can be valued and distributed according to your will, the governing document for the disposition of your estate. But some assets are not subject to probate, including:
- Real estate held jointly
- Bank accounts with multiple names listed
- Property held by a trust
- Life insurance that benefits names another person as beneficiary
All of these assets are transferred upon your passing to the other parties listed as owner. In Ohio, the process is automatic.
Why have non-probate assets?
Because it avoids the hassles, non-probate assets are much simpler to manage after your passing and less costly. Any funds in a joint bank account, for example, are still available to the other parties listed on the account. Having at least some assets in non-probate can make the entire process of arranging a funeral and other expenses much easier for your heirs.
If your house is listed with several co-owners, for example, it transfers automatically. If you know that your passing may be soon because of age or illness, it can save your heirs the trouble of going through the process.
Setting things up
Whether or not it makes sense to move your assets to a non-probate joint account or listing depends entirely on your situation. It is always advised that you talk to an experienced estate attorney to help you to understand where it is an advantage and where it might not be.
There is some loss of control for all non-probate assets, so it may not suit your current situation. But if it does work for you, it could save your family a lot of hassle and expense at the time of your passing.