No, not every estate needs to be probated. Whether an estate will have to be probated depends on how the decedent’s property is titled when he or she dies.  For example, some or all of a decedent’s property, such as jointly held property where there is a right of survivorship, the proceeds from a life insurance policy or a bank or retirement account that names a beneficiary, may not be part of the probate estate because it passes directly to another person by operation of law. Property that is held in a trust created by the decedent may also avoid probate.   

Typically, it is necessary to probate the decedent’s estate if you need to:

  • Establish the validity of the decedent’s will
  • Change title (ownership) to real estate or to personal property such as bank accounts, stocks, bonds, etc., that is held in the decedent’s sole name without any right of survivorship
  • Pay creditors of the decedent
  • Obtain the decedent’s medical records
  • File the decedent’s tax returns and pay taxes, when necessary