Many people who experience the death of a loved one are not only mourning the death of a loved one, but are also confused on the process of transferring the assets (property and cash) of the decedent to the rightful heirs and beneficiaries. In very general terms, probate is the legal process that happens after a person dies in order to pay lawful creditors and transfer assets to rightful beneficiaries. This can include proving the validity of a will, identifying the deceased person's property and the value of that property, transferring that property, and paying debts.
However, not all assets owned by a decedent require probate in order to transfer to the living heirs!
Only certain property passes through probate. This means that certain assets that the decedent owned before death do not become part of the probate estate. Non-probate assets pass to another person by the law or under the terms of a contract. For example, if a couple owns a house in "joint tenancy with a right of survivorship" (this means that when one spouse dies, the deceased spouse's share passes automatically to the living spouse), that house does not have to go through probate. Other property, like life insurance and retirement accounts, pass to the beneficiary who the decedent chose to receive the benefits when the decedent was living. Co-owned accounts automatically pass to the living co-owner.
Common examples of non-probate assets are:
- Assets owned or held in a trust.
- Payable on death accounts, where the beneficiary is named and alive.
- Community property with rights of survivorship.
- Property held in joint tenancy, where there is a surviving joint owner.
- Insurance, retirement plans, or annuities with beneficiary designations.
If you believe you are an heir to the assets of a deceased individual in Nevada, our probate attorneys can assist you and let you know what steps are required to transfer the property and whether you need to open probate or go through a more simple process.