The probate process is the court-supervised administration of a decedent's estate. This process can take months or even a year to complete. Only property included in the "probate estate" will be handled through the probate process. The probate estate is comprised of any property owned by the decedent alone and not distributed before death or through automatic transfer at death. Good planning can simplify the distribution of your assets at death by minimizing or even eliminating the probate estate.
Certain property will transfer automatically at death, including property held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, or property held by a married couple as tenants by the entirety. Additionally, bank accounts and other assets registered as payable-on-death or transfer-on-death will pass automatically at death. Life insurance proceeds and retirement accounts will also pass without court intervention as long as a beneficiary has been named. Finally, property held by the trustee of a living trust will not become part of the probate estate.
By taking the time to arrange your affairs today, you will save your family and loved ones time, energy, and money in the future.