What Assets are Subject to Probate?

Probate is the legal process through which a deceased person’s assets are distributed to beneficiaries or heirs and debts are settled under court supervision. In Virginia, we use a Commissioner of Accounts. However, not all assets are subject to probate; the extent to which assets are subject to probate depends on various factors, including how they are titled and whether they have designated beneficiaries. Here are common types of assets that may be subject to probate:

Solely Owned Property
Assets held solely in the deceased person’s name without a designated beneficiary or co-owner typically go through probate. This includes real estate, vehicles, bank accounts, investments, and personal belongings.

Assets Without Designated Beneficiaries
Assets that do not have designated beneficiaries, or are not held in a trust, may be subject to probate. For example, if a retirement account or life insurance policy does not have a designated beneficiary, it may need to go through probate.

Jointly Owned Property
Assets owned jointly with someone who has passed away may be subject to probate if there is no surviving co-owner or if the ownership was not set up in a way to avoid probate, such as joint tenancy with rights of survivorship or tenancy by the entirety.

Assets with Outdated or Incomplete Beneficiary Designations
If beneficiary designations on assets like retirement accounts, life insurance policies, or payable-on-death (POD) or transfer-on-death (TOD) accounts are outdated, incomplete, or do not exist, these assets may be subject to probate.

Personal Items
Personal belongings and household items may also be subject to probate if there is no clear documentation or instructions regarding their distribution.

If you are unsure about the probate implications of your assets or if you are interested in exploring estate planning options to avoid probate, Wilson Law, PLC can help. We can assess your individual circumstances, explain your options, and help you create a comprehensive estate plan tailored to your needs and goals. Call our office at 866-603-5976 or fill out our contact form and we will reach out to you to schedule a meeting.