When a loved one passes away there are many things to do, and many questions can often arise. One of these is: “what do I do with their personal belongings and assets?” This question can be answered sometimes by determining whether the decedent left a will. After that, the question becomes whether you need to probate the will or to administer the estate of your loved one.
There are generally two ways that you can determine how a decedent’s assets will transfer to their loved ones: with a will (testate) or without a will (intestate). There are also probate assets (items that you need probate to transfer) and non-probate assets (those that transfer upon death).
If you have a will, it will explain exactly how you want your probate assets to be transferred upon your death. Many people will leave things to their spouse or their children either by specifically stating assets they want to give to them or stating individuals who get all or a percentage of their assets. However, if you do not have a will, then your probate assets transfer according to Ind. Code § 29-1-7-15.1 which provides the shares that are given to individuals depending on who are your surviving heirs. This statute has shocked more than a few people who had no idea how it worked. It is advisable to review it and determine if a will is more desirable for your estate plan.
If your loved one left a will the question will be whether to probate the will or if you even need to probate it. Generally, if a will is not offered to probate within three (3) years of the date of death then it is no longer valid. If probate is not needed initially, Indiana provides a process where a will can be probated to spread the will of record without administering any estate. This is generally advisable in case a probate asset is discovered later.
Non-probate assets can include life insurance and retirement accounts with a designated beneficiary. Other options include bank accounts and real estate which can be titled so that they are jointly owned or transfer upon death.
If your loved one left behind probate assets the question becomes whether you need to open a formal administration of the estate. Indiana provides a method where these assets may be transferred without opening a formal estate if the amount of assets is less than $50,000. However, if the estate is worth more than $50,000, a formal estate may be needed to transfer assets.
Sometimes a loved one’s estate plan or assets can be overwhelming or confusing, if you need assistance dealing with a loved one’s assets after a recent death please contact us so that we can assist you in determining the correct and most efficient way to finalize their estate.