The Probate Estate

The term probate is simply the Latin word meaning, “prove.” In the context of wills, it refers to the court supervised legal procedure that officially says your will is valid.


In addition to determining the authenticity of your will during the probate process:


  1. your executor (referred to as a personal representative in some states) is officially appointed;

  2. your debts and taxes are paid;

  3. your beneficiaries are identified and located; and

  4. the property in your probate estate is distributed according to your will.


What are Non-probate Assets?


Your probate estate includes all your property that will pass through probate. Generally, this means all property you own at your death but does not include:


  • Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship (JTWROS) property.

  • Tenancy by the Entirety property.

  • Life Insurance policy death benefits payable to a designated beneficiary other than “estate of the insured."

  • IRAs, 401(k)s, and other retirement plans payable to named beneficiaries.

  • Payable-on-death (POD) Bank Accounts.

  • Transfer-on-death (TOD) Securities Accounts.

  • Property transferred to a Living Trust during your lifetime.

  • Community Property: Generally, when one spouse dies half of the community property automatically belongs to the surviving spouse. The other half can be passed by will.


All of the above items are considered to be non-probate property and are not controlled by your will. See : How is a Will Probated?

See also:



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