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What Happens if You Do Not Go Through Probate?

A loved one dying brings heartache, grief, and a string of responsibilities for their survivors. From planning a funeral or memorial to tying up pressing financial obligations, distributing the property of the deceased and carrying out their final wishes can be an added burden without the process of probate court. Without the proper legal guidance, filing probate can be a timely and even exhausting process for heirs. What happens if you do not go through probate court?

In most instances, a will must be probated for the assets of an estate to legally transfer from the decedent to the beneficiaries, whether it be the title to a property or car, or the remaining balance of accounts without beneficiaries named. If a will is not filed with the probate court, it is not legally recognized. Here are a few scenarios to consider:

A house or car: Depending on how the property is titled, the property will not legally transfer to the beneficiary if the will is not probated.  Ownership will remain in the name of the decedent, and the beneficiary will not be recognized as the legal owner, even if the will provides that the property passes to the beneficiary. Taxes, insurance premiums, and registration will continue to incur balances.

Financial accounts: Although most financial accounts permit the designation of a beneficiary, any account that does not have a beneficiary designated must go through probate to pass to the estate’s beneficiaries. If probate is not filed with the proper court, the balance remains under the decedent’s name and cannot be accessed by the beneficiaries.

Debts and bills: If an estate is not opened, bills will not be paid unless someone does so from their pocket. Debts will continue to accumulate interest, and creditors may pursue collection efforts.

Other property: Any property that passes under the will, is not legally recognized as belonging to a beneficiary without probate. Possession of these belongings could open a beneficiary to a lawsuit if someone else lays claim to them.

Navigating the probate process can seem overwhelming amid the death of a loved one, but it is necessary to carry out the decedent’s wishes expressed in her will.  Other ways exist to avoid probate. Property and assets that are jointly owned do not go through probate, as do accounts that have beneficiaries designated. Finally, a fully funded living trust allows you to use and protect your assets while alive, before passing them to a beneficiary after death, without going through probate.

Would you like to inquire about estate planning? Are you an executor of a will and would like guidance in the process of filing for probate? The Denver estate planners at The Brown Law Firm, LLC are here to help. Contact us at (303) 339-3750 or send us a message online to meet with our experts.