Understanding the probate process and what assets it involves will be part of the discussion when you meet with an attorney to prepare your will. For example, if you want to know whether your collection of vintage dolls will be subject to probate, the short answer is yes.
Personal property that belongs to you alone will usually pass through probate, but there is a way around that.
Assets subject to probate
Here are the types of assets that are likely candidates for probate:
- Cash or any cash accounts that do not have the "transfer on death" designation
- Real estate
- Personal property, including your collection of mechanical banks
- Any assets that permit the naming of beneficiaries but for which no named beneficiaries exist
Assets usually not subject to probate
If you establish a revocable living trust, you can place your mechanical bank collection into it, along with real estate, stocks and bonds, and other such assets. Many people open trusts specifically to avoid probate. Other items that are not subject to probate include insurance policies and any jointly owned assets with right of survivorship.
The beneficiary designation
If you have an investment or retirement account with a transfer on death or TOD designation, the executor can distribute the proceeds to beneficiaries outside of probate. The same holds true for any accounts with named beneficiaries, such as IRAs or 401(k) plans. It is important to note that if there is a conflict between a named beneficiary on, say, an investment account but a different individual named in the will, the person named on the account will take precedence and become the recipient of the assets.
Sorting it all out
If you have a valuable collection of antique mechanical banks -- so popular in the 1800s for encouraging children to save money -- you may have other assets of value that you may not even have considered. An attorney experienced with estate planning matters can help you sort everything out as you draw up your will. You will come away with a much better understanding of the probate process and be able to enjoy peace of mind going forward.