As the family member or loved one of someone who has recently passed away, you likely have numerous questions about the probate process. One of the most common questions that estate planning attorneys hear is “what happens to the decedent’s property?” As with many estate-related questions, there is no “one answer fits all”; however, there are some common situations that may help explain what happens to the decedent’s property.
Some types of estate assets can actually be distributed to the beneficiaries immediately after death. Accounts that are held as “pay on death”, for instance, will transfer directly to the beneficiary after the death of the primary account holder. The proceeds of a life insurance policy will also go directly to the beneficiary.
Most assets, however, will need to pass through probate before they can be distributed. If the decedent left behind a valid Last Will and Testament that included specific bequests, those bequests will be honored if possible. For example, if the Will left $20,000 to my daughter” or “my primary residence to my son”, those bequests will be honored, and the asset transferred when the probate process is complete.
Assets that are not handled by a specific bequest are liquidated during the probate process. The same holds true when no will was left behind — all assets are liquidated. The proceeds are then distributed to beneficiaries under the will or to heirs according to state intestate succession laws.
If you have any more questions or concerns, contact our law firm to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney. We’ll do whatever it takes to ease your mind and put you on the right track.