Our Local Attorneys
Help You Protect Your Legacy

Do cars, houses and personal items go through probate?

On Behalf of | Jun 14, 2024 | Estate Planning

Probate is a legal process that happens after a person dies. It involves validating the deceased person’s will, paying any debts and distributing the remaining assets to the rightful heirs.

Many people wonder if items such as cars, houses, collections and personal belongings must go through probate.


Cars typically go through probate. However, if the car’s title lists a joint owner or has a beneficiary designation, it can transfer directly to that person without probate. For example, some states allow “transfer on death” designations for vehicles. If the deceased person set up this designation, the car would pass to the named beneficiary without going through the probate process.


Houses usually go through probate unless specific arrangements exist to avoid it. A common way to bypass probate is through joint ownership with rights of survivorship. If two people own a house together, and one dies, the surviving owner automatically gets the deceased owner’s share without probate. Another method is a “transfer on death” deed, which allows the property to transfer directly to the named beneficiary upon the owner’s death.


Collections, such as art, stamps or coins, often go through probate. The probate court oversees the distribution of these items according to the deceased person’s will. If the deceased did not leave a will, the court distributes the items according to state law. Properly documenting and appraising valuable collections can help ensure the court handles them appropriately during probate.

Personal items

Personal items like clothing, jewelry and furniture typically go through probate. These items form part of the deceased person’s estate and are subject to the same probate process as other assets. The will usually specifies who should receive these personal belongings. If no will exists, state law determines how to distribute them.

Avoiding probate

According to CNBC, 67% of Americans do not have an estate plan. People can take steps to avoid probate for some assets. Creating a living trust is one way to bypass the probate process. In a living trust, the person transfers ownership of assets to the trust while still alive. Upon death, the trust assets go directly to the beneficiaries without probate.

Everyone should take the time to put together an estate plan to avoid problems for their surviving heirs.