What is a probate estate?

Your Will tells the world how you want to distribute your probate estate.  So, the question becomes ‘What is a probate estate?’

In general, your probate estate consists of anything you own the instant after your death.

Your probate estate does not include life insurance proceeds where the beneficiary of the policy is a person or anything other than ‘the estate of the insured’ because an insurance policy is a contract with the insurance company to pay the proceeds to your beneficiary after your death.  So, the instant after your death, the proceeds now belong to the beneficiary.

Your probate estate does not include property you own with someone else that is titled ‘jointly with right of survivorship’ because ownership of your interest in that property is automatically transferred to the other owner at the instant of your death.

At first glance, it would seem that the best option would be to re-title your assets (e.g., home, bank accounts) to be held jointly with right of survivorship.  However, there are big potential problems with that option that should be considered before you make your final decision.

You should contact an estate planning attorney for more information.

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