Some assets are subject to probate while others are not

You may not have known much if anything about probate before now. However, when a family member such as a grandparent passes away, the matter of probate hits close to home.

If you are among the beneficiaries, you are probably interested in knowing which of your grandparent’s assets are subject to probate and which are not.  

A little background

Probate is a process of verifying and settling the estate of someone who dies. This includes distributing the assets of the deceased according to the instructions in his or her will. Even if your grandparent died intestate—without a will—the assets will go to his or her heirs in accordance with Tennessee intestacy laws.         

Assets subject to probate

Assets that are normally subject to the probate process are personal property, including items of value such as art collections or jewelry; real estate; cash and cash accounts that do not have a TOD or transfer on death designation; assets for which there are no named beneficiaries; and assets held as tenants in common.

Assets usually not subject to probate

Assets having named beneficiaries, such as an IRA or 401(k), and investment or cash accounts with the TOD designation do not usually go through probate. Distributions are made directly to the beneficiaries. Other assets not subject to probate include those placed in trust, the proceeds from insurance policies and joint tenancy assets with right of survivorship.

In case of conflict

If someone named as a beneficiary in, say, a retirement account conflicts with the information in the will, the named beneficiary trumps whatever the will states and stands to receive the asset. Keep in mind that state laws will come into play with regard to the distribution of your grandparent’s estate. If any questions arise concerning the rights of beneficiaries, the probate process will resolve doubts and provide the answers to those questions. If you or any of the other beneficiaries still have questions about probate and asset distribution, consultation with an estate planning attorney may be in order.

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