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The Probate Process
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Any asset that does not transfer through beneficiary designations or asset titling, goes through the probate process. Probate is the legal process of a court overseeing the distribution of assets.

If you die with a valid will, the will is presented to the court, and a named executor ensures that your assets are distributed accordingly. If you die without a valid will (a.k.a.intestate), state law determines how your assets will be distributed.


Caution! It is critical that your beneficiary designations and asset titling coordinate with the wishes expressed in your Will. Beneficiary designations and asset titling take priority over your Will’s bequests. In English, although your Will makes a gift to a loved one or charity—if your only asset is your 401(k) plan and the beneficiary is your ex… that’s who gets the money. If your Will makes a gift to your sister but all of your assets are held Jointly with Rights of Survivorship with your spouse, your sister gets nothing.

Probate can be time consuming, costly, and public. You can avoid probate by using beneficiary designations, titling, and revocable trusts. However, most of us will have at least one asset that goes through probate. The distribution of assets that go through probate is controlled by your Will.

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