Probate asset or non-probate asset, what is the difference?

Probate is the legal process of settling the estate of someone who has passed away.  In deciding whether a probate is necessary, an evaluation of the character of the decedent’s assets must be made.   Are the decedent’s assets probate assets, non-probate assets, or both?   If all the decedent’s assets are non-probate assets, a probate is likely not necessary.   That said, the character of a decedent’s assets becomes very important.   

RCW 11.02.005(10) sets forth the statutory definition of a non-probate asset.   In general, non-probate assets are assets that transfer outside probate such as assets held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, assets subject to a community property agreement and assets held in a manner making them payable or deliverable upon death such as an insurance policy with a designated beneficiary other than the estate or a transfer on death deed.

Probate assets quite simply are all assets other than non-probate assets.   If a decedent has only probate assets or both probate assets and non-probate assets, a probate will likely be necessary if the decedent has assets valued over $100,000.00 or owns real estate not subject to transfer on death deed.

Knowing the difference between probate assets and non-probate assets can make a big difference in both estate planning and probate considerations.   For example, if a client does not own real estate and has an asset mix of bank accounts and insurance policies, beneficiary designations can be made to avoid probate all together.   

An experienced estate planning and probate attorney can advise you on all matters relative to estate planning and probate such as evaluating the character of a decedent’s assets.