What is Probate Property?
Probate is the process of transferring title from the name of the deceased to the beneficiaries as directed by the terms of the will of the deceased or by the laws of intestate succession if there was no will or the will was found to be invalid. Assets that must pass through probate are considered probate property. As your College Station probate attorney can advise you, certain assets need not pass through probate and are deemed nonprobate property.
If the decedent passed away as the sole person on title to real estate, it will be necessary for the probate court to supervise transfer of title. However, is title was held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, as it often is with married couples, title passes to the survivor automatically by operation of law without the need for probate.
The manner in which title is held is controlling. A joint account will automatically go to the survivor and an account in only the decedent's name must be probated. Another option for bank accounts, however, is what is known as a payable on death (POD) beneficiary. During the lifetime of the account holder only he or she has control of the account assets, but immediately upon passing the account passes to the named beneficiary outside probate.
If the decedent established a trust during their lifetime and properly transferred assets into that trust, those trust assets are excluded from probate and are considered nonprobate assets. Although the assets were controlled by the decedent and will be distributed according to their wishes, the trust as a legal entity is the owner of the assets, not the person. It may be helpful to have a College Station probate attorney assist you in settling the trust.
Life Insurance Policies
Although owned by the decedent, a life insurance policy is actually a contract that directs the death value of the policy to be paid directly to the named beneficiary and is not within the decedent's probate estate.
Where a POD beneficiary or the beneficiary of a life insurance policy is the estate of the decedent, those proceeds become part of the probate estate.