Probate vs. Non-Probate Property
A common misconception is that your will determines who should get “everything.” However, this is usually not the case. Your will only controls what happens to property in your “probate estate,” which consists only of property that you own personally at the time of your passing. It does not include property that is jointly owned because, strangely enough, you no longer own such property. Instead, at the moment of your passing, the jointly-owned property passes immediately and automatically to the other joint owner(s). Your probate estate also does not include property owned by a trust, even if you are the trustee, because a trust is a separate legal entity and not considered “you” for the purposes of probate. Finally, your probate estate does not include assets for which there is a beneficiary designation, such as life insurance policies or retirement accounts. When you die, those assets pass immediately and automatically to the designated beneficiaries.
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