Probate covers property that doesn’t automatically get assigned to someone else when a person dies. A deceased person’s estate consists of the property that is still owned by that person even after death.
Bank Accounts – If a bank account or investment account is solely in your name and you haven’t designated a beneficiary then the money in that account would have to go through probate. To avoid probate for those funds make sure that there is a beneficiary listed for the account. Some banks refer to the form as a “payable on death” or “transfer on death”, and they may shorten this by calling it a POD or TOD form. If an account is held jointly with another person then that person will continue to have access to the funds.
Life Insurance, Annuities and IRA accounts – When you obtain life insurance, buy an annuity or open an IRA account, you will be asked to designate a beneficiary. By selecting a person to receive the funds you allow this money to avoid probate. While this is advantageous, unfortunately after a divorce, death or other changes in circumstances people fail to change the named beneficiary.
Real Estate – Jointly owned property with right of survivorship are outside the scope of probate, as the title to the property automatically transferred with the death.
Tenancy by the Entirety – Property owned by a husband and wife as tenants by the entirety is not an asset of the estate. With the death of the first spouse the property automatically goes to the surviving spouse.
This list is not intended to cover all potential assets that may not be part of the deceased person’s estate, but it does provide some example of the types of property that is not part of the estate.