Each state has its own rules dictating which assets (and which estates) are required to go through probate. In New York, only certain types of assets are considered probate assets, and will likely be passed on to new owners using the New York probate process. Generally, any asset that is owned solely by the deceased and has not been assigned a beneficiary designation is considered a probate asset.
Common assets that are included in probate proceedings:
- Residences and real estate. If only the deceased is listed as the owner on a house or real estate deed, the property will have to go through probate to pay any outstanding liens or taxes and establish who will inherit it. However, if a property is owned by more than one person and includes a right of survivorship, the property should automatically pass to the surviving owner without the need for probate.
- Belongings. Any property left in a person’s residence, including furniture, cars, clothing, art, jewelry, valuables, and other belongings that have not been disposed of through testamentary instruments (such as a trust) or passed on through a survivorship right, will have to be included in probate.
- Bank accounts. New York residents can avoid probate on bank accounts by adding a "payable-on-death" (POD) designation to their checking, savings, or certificates of deposit. If no beneficiary is named, the amount in the account will be considered a probate asset. Similarly, life insurance policies and retirement accounts can become a probate asset if they do not have a valid designated beneficiary at the time of the owner’s death.
Can I Avoid Probate by Naming Beneficiaries in My Will?
In most cases, a last will and testament names beneficiaries to property that is included in probate, since any property outside of probate (in a trust or through the right of survivorship) would have its own legally-binding beneficiary designation. Simply naming a beneficiary in your will does not mean the property will avoid probate; it means the beneficiary will inherit the property once probate is complete.
As experienced estate planning attorneys, we know the benefits and disadvantages of each way to title and transfer property. Contact us today through our online form to set up an initial consultation with a probate attorney.