When planning out your estate, understanding the difference between probate vs non probate assets can be a challenge. These two asset types often deliver significant differences with how they handle certain finances, so it’s critical to know how they work, and what benefits they offer that are set to your unique and individual needs.

Understanding Probate Assets

After a court determines that a person’s will is legally valid, the estate is administered by the executor, who carries out tasks such as accounting for and distributing all assets, as well as paying estate taxes and debts. This is a multi-step process, and often takes time to move forward.

Probate assets are those that are held in your name only, without other beneficiaries or rights of survivorship. When you die, these assets are distributed through the terms of your will. In cases of intestacy, Florida has specific rules regarding where these assets go, and in most cases it goes to the decedent’s spouse if applicable. But if a personal representative is named, it becomes their responsibility in handling these assets. Here’s how to account for assets in probate, as well as the types of probate assets there are:

  • A bank account or investment account in the sole name of the decedent
  • A life insurance policy or individual retirement account payable to the decedent’s estate
  • Real estate titled in the sole name of the decedent or jointly in the name of a decedent and a tenant in common
  • Personal property such as cars, household items, or jewelry.

Understanding Non Probate Assets

In cases of non probate assets, these usually have a beneficiary designation or are held as joint tenants with survivorship rights or payable on death. For non probate assets, a will does not control how these are distributed, and they are not handled by a probate court. Some non probate assets include:

  • Property held in an revocable living trust
  • Bank accounts with a pay-on-death arrangement or transfer-on-death
  • Life insurance policies that list someone other than yourself as the beneficiary
  • Retirement benefits with beneficiaries, such as IRAs, 401(k)s,  403(b)s, annuities, and profit sharing plans
  • Property held as joint tenancy with rights of survivorship

How to Account For Assets in Probate

When it comes to understanding probate rules and processes, it’s important to know how to account for assets in probate. A personal representative, or executor, is most often the person tasked with handling the duties regarding transferring property from the decedent’s estate to the heirs. These duties can include:

  • Gathering and valuing your loved one’s probate assets, and filing an inventory for them
  • Opening the estate through the court
  • Paying debts owed by your loved one, and filing their final tax return
  • Handling estate taxes, closing accounts, and closing the estate
  • Distributing remaining property according to the will’s provisions to beneficiaries

Executors are advised to meet with an attorney to facilitate these duties, and eventually file a petition with the probate court to move forward with their probate assets. The attorney will go over any wills and death certificates, and identify any of the debts a decedent may owe.

Walser & Herman, Elder Law and Probate Attorneys

After analyzing your probate vs non probate assets, your next move should be to contact an estate planning and probate attorney to go forward with your assets.

It’s always important to have experience by your side when you’re planning out the future of your estate, as well as handling your probate vs non probate assets. Walser & Herman Law is here to guide you through every step of arranging for and protecting your assets, with more than three decade’s worth of experience providing expert elder law, probate services, and estate planning in Florida.

Our Trust and Estate law firm is equipped with experienced Florida Probate attorneys who can provide affordable and timely probate services for the settling of an estate with property located in any of Florida’s 67 counties. For more information regarding our services, contact Walser & Herman today.