- posted: Oct. 30, 2022
- Estate Planning
Probate is a legal process through which ownership of a decedent’s property passes to his or her heirs or named beneficiaries. This involves validating a will, if the person has one, or following intestacy statutes when a person dies without a will. In either case, probate requires distributing the decedent’s assets and settling debts, liabilities and other expenses.
However, there are certain assets that do not go through the probate process and instead pass automatically to co-owners or named beneficiaries. The more property that can be transferred in this way, the easier probate can be. In fact, it may be possible to avoid probate altogether.
In Arizona, non-probate assets include the following:
- Life insurance policies
- Retirement plans (such as a 401k or an IRA)
- Living trusts
- Bank or brokerage accounts that include payable-on-death or transfer-on-death clauses
- Bank or brokerage accounts with joint tenant right of survivorship
- Titles to motor vehicles with the word “or” between the names of joint owners
- Jointly owned investments or bank accounts
- Community property with right of survivorship
- Deeds with joint tenant right of survivorship
Holding a significant portion of your assets in one of these categories can make the probate process faster, cheaper and easier to accomplish. For example, Arizona permits small estates — those with less than $100,000 in real property and less than $75,000 in personal property — to be settled simply by filing an affidavit. That means the entire case is handled on paper, without the need for a formal court proceeding.
An experienced estate planning attorney can advise you on how to restructure ownership of assets so that they may go directly to co-owners or beneficiaries upon your death. This includes re-conveying real property, redesignating ownership of accounts and changing beneficiaries of life insurance policies and retirement plans. In certain cases, it may also be advisable to make a simple will to ensure that property not passing automatically will reach intended beneficiaries.
The Law Firm of Joseph M. Udall, PLC in Mesa, Arizona is ready to help you maximize non-probate assets so as to minimize or possibly avoid the probate process. We are skilled at creating estate plans that fit our clients’ unique situations. Contact us online or give us a call at (480) 500-1866 for an initial consultation.