The National Directory of Certified Public Accountants

Ask A CPA - Estate Planning

Probate And Non-Probate Assets

A state court must authorize transfer of probate assets. Non-probate assets transfer automatically to the new owners at death. Characteristics and examples of Probate assets are assets are owned individually by the decedent. Decedent's share of assets is owned as tenants in common. Life insurance, annuities and retirement assets without any beneficiary designations. Life insurance, annuities and retirement assets if the estate is the named beneficiary or if the estate receives the asset because the named beneficiaries are deceased. Characteristics and examples of Non-probate assets are assets are owned jointly with the right of survivorship. Life insurance, annuities and retirement assets with valid beneficiary designations other than the estate. Securities or security accounts to be "transferred on death". Bank accounts and other assets with "pay on death" or trust designations. Assets in trust if the instrument includes a plan for distribution after death.

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