When one dies their Last Will and Testament is presented to the Court and the appointed personal representative must obtain Court authorization to distribute those assets held in one's name alone, that do not have designated beneficiaries, in accordance therewith. The procedure is referred to as "Probate." One's Last Will and Testament does not control distribution of certain assets as set forth below:
Assets subject to Probate may include, but are not limited to, the following:
1. real property owned individually;
2. real property owned as "tenants in common" with another;
3. real property owned as "husband and wife," if the marriage has ever been dissolved (even if the parties are re-married to each other);
4. solely owned bank accounts, stocks, bonds, vehicles, jewelry, etc.; and
5. life insurance, annuities and retirement accounts that do not have designated beneficiaries, or have beneficiaries which are no longer living.
Assets not subject to Probate may include, but are not limited to, the following:
1. real property owned as "husband and wife," if husband and wife are married at the time of death;
2. real property, bank accounts, stocks, bonds and vehicles owned jointly with another person, with right of survivorship;
3. real property that is owned as to a life estate only;
4. bank accounts, stocks, bonds that contain "transfer on death (TOD)" or "payable on death (POD)" designations;
5. life insurance, annuities and retirement accounts in which there is a valid beneficiary designation; and,
6. assets owned by a revocable or irrevocable trust.
Furthermore, if a person dies owning real property jointly with a spouse or another person (with a right of survivorship) certain documentation must be recorded in the public records of the county so that the title to the property is clear in the records.