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What Is a Probate Estate? Definition, Uses and Importance.

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All the assets owned at death that require some form of legal proceeding before title may be transferred to a proper heir. Property passing through probate are in an estate, not just those things which automatically transfer without any action on behalf of their owner (such as property held by joint tenancy).

In trusts and estates, assets held in an individual’s name are included in the probate estate. Probate court determines the distribution of the deceased’s estate, which is normally done in accordance with the terms of the deceased’s will. Also included in the probate estate are assets that do not have title (e.g., household items, jewelry) and other pre-death debts (including wrongful death lawsuit proceeds). All non-probate assets, such as those transferred during the decedent’s lifetime or those governed by a survivorship mechanism, are excluded from this list.

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