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I can really only speak to you about the tax refund issue you asked about.
Whether or not jointly held property (i.e. property held by more than one person) needs to go through the probate process depends on the type of ownership.
Probate re-titles the property, putting it into the name of the person who was chosen to receive the property.
A tenancy in common will be subject to the probate process.
Property held by joint tenants with the right of survivorship is not subject to probate.
A tenancy by the entirety is a special form
of joint ownership shared by spouses. when one spouse dies it isn’t treated as an event that passes title to the surviving spouse since the spouse already owns the title, the property doesn’t go through probate.
FREE EXTRA INFORMATION FOR YOU
If you, as the surviving spouse, receive a tax refund check in both your name and your deceased spouse's name, you can have the check reissued in your name alone.
Return the joint-name check marked “VOID” along with Form 1310 to your local IRS
office or the service center where you mailed your return, along with a written request for reissuance of the refund check. A new check will be issued in your name and mailed to you.