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Is Uncle Bob’s mechanical bank collection headed to probate?

If your Uncle Bob named you as his personal representative in his will, you must oversee which of his assets go through probate and which do not, now that your uncle has passed away.

Once you read the will, you will know the extent of your uncle’s estate and how complicated your task will be. For example, what will happen to his fascinating and valuable collection of mechanical banks?

Probate basics

Probate is the process of settling the estate of a person who has died according to his or her will. The estate comprises the assets in which the deceased held an interest, but generally only those held in his or her name individually will go through probate.

Exempt from probate

Any assets your uncle had that allowed for the naming of a beneficiary would probably not have to go through the probate process. Such assets include retirement accounts such as an IRA or 401(k), certain cash accounts and accounts with transfer on death designations. If your uncle set up a trust, the assets the trust contains, such as real estate holdings or cash, would be exempt from probate as well. Insurance policy proceeds are also exempt.

Subject to probate

Uncle Bob’s mechanical bank collection is personal property that will have to go through probate along with other valuable personal items and collectibles. Any real estate that exists outside of a trust will be subject to probate along with assets held as tenants in common. Your uncle may have had accounts that allowed for beneficiaries, but if he failed to name anyone, they will go to probate, as will any accounts that do not have accompanying TOD designations.

Seeking help

The more complex the estate, the more complicated your job as personal representative. Despite your uncle's confidence in your ability to administer his estate, you may find it beneficial and necessary to seek legal guidance to avoid any missteps. By way of thanks, you may find that he remembered you in his will, especially if you shared his passion for mechanical banks.


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