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Navigating the Indiana probate process

When a person dies, Indiana state law may require his or her estate to go through probate. During this process, which often takes up to a year, the court supervises the surviving spouse or another authorized family member in distributing property from the estate and settling its debts and taxes.

Read on to learn more about how probate works in Indiana.

Probate-exempt property

Many estate assets do not require probate. Categories of exempt property include:

  • Retirement accounts that have a designated beneficiary
  • Property owned in conjunction with another person, such as real estate or a joint bank account
  • Assets held in a living trust
  • Bank accounts with a named beneficiary
  • Real estate and assets covered by a transfer on death deed

Only assets for which the deceased was the sole owner are subject to probate in Indiana. In addition, estates worth less than $50,000 qualify for a simplified probate process.

Managing the process

The person named as the will’s executor must file a petition in county court to start the probate process. Without a will, a family member can take on this role. The court will grant this person authority to gather the estate’s funds and assets, pay outstanding obligations of the estate and distribute property to the person’s heirs.

Administration is not court-supervised as long as the estate has more assets than debts and no one contests the terms of the will. The court will supervise in cases in which:

  • The will is unclear
  • The person did not have a will
  • Family members or beneficiaries have contested the will
  • The estate contains unique assets such as art or collections that result in complex valuation

Indiana law does not require estates to pay state or federal income tax. The only exception is for estates worth more than $11.2 million. Careful estate planning can help most families avoid probate and streamline the process of wrapping up their loved one’s affairs.