Probate is usually needed whenever a person dies with property titled in their name that must be re-titled before being transferred to their heirs.
However, probate is usually unnecessary if the deceased person holds all their property jointly with their spouse. In this case, no probate proceeding will be necessary as the property can be transferred into the sole name of the surviving spouse.
Furthermore, suppose the estate’s assets are only those for which the deceased person had designated a beneficiary. In that case, again, probate may not be necessary.
For example, life insurance policies, 401Ks, IRAs, bank accounts, and some real estate may be transferred directly to a designated beneficiary without a probate proceeding.
However, suppose the decedent neglected to name a beneficiary for a particular asset or the heir died before the decedent. In that case, a probate proceeding may still be necessary.
Ultimately, probate is required if there is a property at stake that is not subject to a right of survivorship, there is personal property that is not held in an account with a designated beneficiary, or there is a dispute about the inheritance of certain property.