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Understanding the Difference between Probate and Non-Probate Assets in Georgia Estate Planning

Posted by Joel Beck | Jul 06, 2023 | 0 Comments

If you've heard the terms "probate assets" and "non-probate assets" and you're puzzled about what they mean for your estate planning in Georgia, you're not alone. When we mention these terms, we're discussing how an asset is disseminated after your demise. Is it allocated through the probate court process or through another method? To simplify, probate assets are assets where the title is individually held and not jointly held with the right of survivorship with someone else. These are assets that will be transferred to somebody else via your will.

Delving Deeper into Probate Assets

Probate assets are those which, at the time of your death, will go through the probate process and be transferred as your will dictates. If you leave an asset to your wife, children, or anyone else, they will obtain it as your will is processed by the probate court. Because the title of these assets is held by an individual and not jointly, they can't be transferred to someone else without probate, making these assets a significant factor in your estate planning process.

Exploring Non-Probate Assets

On the other hand, non-probate assets operate differently. Consider this common example: you and your spouse have a joint checking account with a right of survivorship. When you pass away, the account and its contents automatically transfer to the surviving spouse without needing to go through the probate process. Similar accounts with a TOD (transferable on death) or POD (payable on death) designation also fall into this category, as do life insurance policies where a beneficiary other than your estate is named. These assets bypass probate entirely.

Additional Non-Probate Assets: Retirement Accounts and Trusts

Let's not forget retirement accounts and trusts, two other crucial categories of non-probate assets. Retirement accounts, such as 401Ks and IRAs, have designated beneficiaries with the account custodian. This determines where these assets will ultimately be located. They won't come into your estate or be distributed through your will unless your designated beneficiary is your estate itself. Trust assets, meanwhile, also bypass probate and are distributed according to the terms of the trust.

Essential Takeaway from the Differences

Understanding these differences is fundamental because not all property or assets will be distributed through your will. Designating beneficiaries on insurance products and retirement accounts is critically important to ensure that your assets are allocated according to your wishes.

Get Help from Peach State Wills & Trusts

Estate planning can be a complex process, and you want to make sure that your assets will be distributed in accordance with your desires. At Peach State Wills & Trusts, we are ready to assist you in making sense of probate and non-probate assets, and how each affects your estate planning in Georgia. Contact us at 678-344-5342 to learn how to plan for your future today.

If you have additional questions about estate planning in Georgia, we invite you to download our free guide here, no strings attached.

About the Author

Joel Beck

Joel Beck founded The Beck Law Firm, LLC in 2007. His firm focused on business law and estate planning needs of clients, two areas that he was drawn to based upon personal and business experiences in his life, including a ten-year career at NASD (now known as FINRA).


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