Probate and Decedents' Estates
Probate is a court process for addressing the estate of someone who has died, typically referred to as the decedent. The process is used to settle the debts of the decedent and pass legal title of assets to the decedent's heirs.
If the individual dies with a Last Will and Testament, the will needs to be proved in court to be accepted as the wishes of the decedent. If the decedent dies without a will, the probate process is used to make distribution of the estate to the decedent's "heirs at law," as set out in our Indiana statutes.
Only certain property must be probated. If the decedent owns an asset jointly with survivorship with another person, that property passes outside of probate to the surviving owner. If the decedent names a beneficiary on an asset or designates an asset to pass by way of a "payable on death" or "transfer on death" designation, then that asset is not subject to probate. Assets held in a revocable living trust do not have to go through a probate process.
If the total value of assets to be probated is less than $50,000, then assets can be passed to heirs by way of a document called an Affidavit for Transfer of Assets Without Administration, or, more commonly, a "Small Estates Affidavit."