Probate is necessary if the deceased owned property or assets that were solely in his name without any joint owners or a designation that is payable on death, says estate expert Julie Garber on About.com. That property or asset needs to go into probate in order to transfer it out of the decedent's name.
If the decedent owned property or assets with someone named as a tenant in common, that asset cannot avoid the probate process, because that is the only way the survivor is able to gain ownership, says About.com. If the deceased owned property that was payable on death, including a life insurance policy, a health savings or a medical savings account, an IRA, an annuity, a 401(k), or even a checking or savings account, and the named beneficiary predeceased the decedent, that asset is required to go into probate. The asset also needs to go into probate if no beneficiary was named, according to About.com.
If the assets are low in value, many states have an option for a small estate probate, which is used just to probate the low-value asset. If the asset is above the state's cut-off amount, the asset needs to go into regular probate, concludes About.com.