You have been thinking a lot about the future. You love your family and have been planning ahead. For a few years now, you have diligently managed and saved your money. Now you want to create an estate plan so that you can transfer your savings and property on to your heirs after you pass away.
Many of your assets will be transferred through the legal process of probate. However, some assets are non-probate assets and will not follow that distribution process.
What Are Non-Probate Assets?
Non-probate assets bypass the court process and go directly to beneficiaries based on beneficiary designation or form of title. These items have a contractual provision to their ownership and are not governed by a will. Non- probate assets require documentation which can include:
- Bank records
- Beneficiary designation forms
These documents must be properly drafted. Types of assets typically associated with these documents, and considered non-probate include:
- Joint bank and brokerage accounts
- Property held in a trust
- Life insurance
- Retirement benefits
- Property that is held in joint tenancy
- Cars, boats or other registered vehicles held in joint names
Can Creditors Go After Non-Probate Assets?
If there are debts, creditors can file a claim against the estate to pay off the debt. Creditors are paid using probate assets prior to the final distribution of assets. If the probate assets are not enough, a creditor can look into non-probate assets to pay debts. This typically happens if there was an indication that assets were transferred in order to avoid debt. Some items, such as retirement accounts and insurance proceeds, are more strongly protected from creditors and treated in a different manner.
What Can You Do?
As you draft your estate plan, you will want to understand which property is probate property and which is non-probate property. Knowing the difference will help ensure that your assets are distributed how you want them. If you have questions, you can easily get answers from an expert in probate and estate planning matters.