What makes up the probate estate?

Updated March 13, 2023.

The probate estate includes any assets owned individually by the decedent at death that do not name a beneficiary, such as bank accounts, taxable investment accounts, real estate, personal property such as cars and jewelry. Assets such as retirement plans (401(k), IRA, 403(b)), life insurance and annuities often pass directly to beneficiaries designated by the decedent. In some cases, if no beneficiary is named, these assets may be included in the probate estate. Other assets may be jointly owned, in which case the asset will pass automatically to the surviving joint owner. Transfer on death designations allow a decedent to direct that an asset pass outside of the probate estate, directly to named beneficiary(ies).

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