You can be the owner of property in three ways:
- as an individual in your own name
- jointly with one or more other people
- through contract rights
How your property is titled can make a big difference in how you plan your estate. The title will determine whether or not the property is included in the probate process and how the asset is distributed to beneficiaries.
If property is titled in your name alone and without any other joint owners, then the property would likely go through probate. There are exceptions to this of course, as certain types of assets do not go through probate because they can be distributed without court supervision. A life insurance policy for example, or a retirement plan does not require probate to be distributed to your beneficiaries.
If you are a joint tenant on the other hand, but your part of the rent or interest is owned by you alone as an individual – without any joint owners – then the value of your interest in the property would be probated.
How will the probate be conducted?
After your death, the probate Judge will appoint an Executor or Personal Representative as named in your Will. If you have not named anyone, the Court will appoint a person for the purpose. This Personal Representative will be able to access your estate and your accounts.
The process of probate will be guided by whatever wishes you have expressed in your Will. If you have not drawn up a Will then the laws of intestacy would be followed in determining the distribution of the estate.
There are several ways to avoid the probate process altogether. A qualified estate planning attorney can help you decide which methods will work best for you.