Cash is one of the easiest assets to consider when it comes to estate planning, because it is liquid and flexible. It can be divided easily and, without considering inflation, its value is straightforward.
Do cash and bank accounts pass through probate?
YES, cash, as well as bank accounts that don’t allow for TOD designation, must pass through probate.
NO, if there is a TOD designation allowed on a bank account and it is up to date, the account will pass outside of probate. Money placed in a trust is also usually able to pass outside of probate.
Cash is considered part of your taxable estate and will be subject to federal and, if applicable, state inheritance taxes and probate. Some bank accounts have a transfer on death (TOD) designation, which allows you to name a beneficiary and avoid probate.
If your taxable estate is under a certain limit, it may be exempt from federal estate tax. For the latest on the federal exemption, see Estate and gift tax changes in Fidelity Viewpoints®.
Consider a trust for cash assets
A trust can be an effective option for leaving cash to your beneficiaries. A properly structured trust can allow the money to remain outside of probate. If you opt for an irrevocable trust, you may be able to remove the assets from your taxable estate, as well.
For more on trusts, see Six reasons you should consider a trust in Fidelity Viewpoints®.
There may be other solutions for your estate and your particular circumstances for minimizing the tax impact when passing on cash; it’s advisable to consult with your attorney or tax advisor.