For better or worse, many people in Maryland have heard of probate court. Although probate litigation can be a good way to resolve disputes regarding a will, for a variety of reasons, some people may wish to avoid having their property go through the probate process altogether. A big question for many of them may be, what types of property will end up passing through probate court?
Not all property is subject to probate. First of all, the property must have belonged to someone who has since died, and the property must be in the deceased's name only. This means that property legally owned jointly, for example, by a husband and wife as tenants by entireties or as a joint tenancy, will not pass through probate if there is a surviving spouse.
There are also other types of property that are not subject to probate. For example, if an asset is considered "payable on death," it will go directly to the beneficiaries of the asset. In addition, if there are insurance policies, such as life insurance, that list a beneficiary, after the policy owner's death those proceeds will go to the beneficiaries without passing through probate. In addition, trust assets, such as those held in an irrevocable or a revocable trust, do not go through probate and instead go directly to the beneficiaries listed in the trust.
Not all property held by those in Maryland is subject to probate after the property owner's death. If a person wants to avoid probate, there are a number of estate planning documents that may allow them to do so. Learning more about the available options is a good first step.