probate assets

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Probate assets are assets that are transferred by testate or intestate succession. In trusts and estates law, probate assets differ from non-probate assets in that an individual owns probate assets in their sole name at their death. As a result, probate assets do not have a survivorship feature that will control the disposition at death, so disposition of probate assets are determined by probate court and are usually distributed as directed by the decedent’s will. Non-probate assets are those with survivorship features that direct their disposition, like life insurance policies or joint tenancies. Whether an asset is a probate or non-probate asset can affect legal ability to challenge the distribution of the asset and the tax liability of the recipient of the asset.

Probate assets may also be referred to as legal assets, to identify the assets are by law subject to the claims of creditors, whereas non-probate assets are not subject to creditor’s claims.

[Last updated in January of 2024 by the Wex Definitions Team]