The probate process is designed to handle the most complicated cases. It is designed to handle those estates which are insolvent because the debts of the decedent exceed the assets of the decedent. It is designed to protect situations where there are dysfunctional families and the heirs are combatant. To the extent that an individual has “probate assets”, it is necessary to go through the probate process even if the case is not insolvent, the heirs all get along well and even if the case is a simple one. This process can be extremely time-consuming and expensive.
To the extent that the decedent owned “probate assets”, it is necessary to go through the probate process. What exactly are “probate assets”?
Probate assets are those assets which are owned individually by the decedent with no co-owners or designated beneficiaries.
Not all assets are probate assets. It’s not unusual for the decedent to have had ownership of assets which were properly positioned so that the owner could use the money during his or her lifetime but the assets were positioned so that they weren't “probate assets” and as a result were able to “avoid probate”. Many of these techniques are relatively simple and can be accomplished easily with proper planning.