Why retirement accounts might be subject to probate

If you make use of beneficiary designations, there is a strong possibility that retirement accounts won’t need to go through probate. Ideally, you will name both a primary and alternate beneficiary to ensure that the asset can be transferred without needing to go before an Ohio judge.

A basic overview of probate

Probate is the process by which a judge will validate your will, accept claims against your estate and ensure that your final bills are paid. Typically, assets cannot be transferred to beneficiaries until these steps have been taken. It may take months or years for a probate case to come to an end.

Why retirement accounts may still be subject to probate

If you name your estate as the beneficiary of your 401(k), 403(b) or similar account, it will need to go through probate. The same is likely true if you name a minor as a beneficiary as they are not legally allowed to manage assets on their own.

Be sure to review your beneficiary designations often

It isn’t uncommon for a spouse to be named as a beneficiary to a retirement account. However, if your marriage ends, you might not want that individual to obtain that asset. Reviewing a beneficiary designation might also ensure that you aren’t passing a retirement plan to someone who has died, which would likely result in the asset reverting back to your estate.

Avoiding probate may prevent legal challenges to your estate or other problems that make it harder to settle your affairs in a timely manner. If necessary, a probate litigation attorney may be able to defend your estate against creditor claims. The attorney may also defend the estate against claims made by individuals seeking to obtain a share of your assets.