We may acquire many assets over the course of our lives now—bank accounts, stocks, real property, life insurance, retirement, and more—it’s almost impossible to know what has to go through probate and what doesn’t.
The answer to the question in the title, above, is “no”; life insurance and retirement benefits do not have to go through probate if the account has a named beneficiary. Benefits from life insurance accounts can be paid directly to the named beneficiary, and money from IRAs, Keoghs, and 401(k) accounts transfer automatically to the named beneficiaries of those accounts as well. The persons named as beneficiary, however, will most likely want to consult with a financial advisor before drawing these benefits, as there may be tax ways of handling these accounts which minimize tax to the beneficiary.
Yet another type of account that is not subject to probate is a “pay on death” (or POD) account, the money from which can pass directly to the named beneficiary upon the death of the owner.
Probate laws vary from state to state, so contact our office—or your own local attorney who specializes in probate—for more information.