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Determine which assets must be included in probate

If you are named as administrator of an estate, there may be some assets that fall out of the breadth and scope of the probate process. These non-probate assets must be dealt with separately as the rest of the decedent's estate goes through the probate process.

Some non-probate assets may include the following:

-- Assets owned solely by the decedent but that are payable on death or transferred on death to a designated party.

-- Joint tenancy assets co-owned by a spouse who has a right of survivorship.

-- Other jointly owned assets (either by the surviving spouse or by others) also with survivorship rights.

-- Assets held in a Revocable Living Trust that the decedent set up.

-- Assets the decedent owned through contractual rights that are paid out to designated beneficiaries upon the death of the owner. These may include annuities, life insurance proceeds and other financial instruments.

If you are administering an estate, it is incumbent upon you to understand the differences between non-probate assets and those that must go through the probate process. Failing to have a good grasp of this can cause problems for the administrator, as well as for the decedent's heirs and beneficiaries. Estate administrators can face liability issues for failing to include certain assets in the probate process, and including assets that don't need to be probated can unnecessarily delay the transfer of these assets to the designated beneficiaries.

Seeking legal guidance from a qualified estate administration lawyer here in British Columbia can streamline the estate administration process for all concerned.

Source: JD Supra Business Advisor, "How Non-Probate Assets Can Affect Your Estate Plan: A Few Cautionary Tales," Margaret Winfield, June 03, 2016

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