Probate assets are Assets that do not automatically transfer to Surviving Family, Heirs or Beneficiaries after a death; instead they must go through the Probate process before they can be distributed.
State specific probate laws govern how a deceased person's Estate should be Settled; some assets of that estate are not subject to probate and will pass directly to beneficiaries, but the distribution of others need to be overseen by state Probate Court.
Probate assets typically include:
Real Estate: any property (home, land, etc) owned solely by the deceased (not held jointly or subject to automatic beneficiary designation)
Investments: stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other investment accounts held solely in the deceased's name and do not have any designated beneficiary
Personal Property: items like jewelry, artwork, furniture, vehicles, and other personal possessions that are solely owned by the deceased
Business Ownership: ownership of a sole proprietorship or partnership, shares in a closely held corporation, or membership interests in a limited liability company (LLC) held solely by the deceased
Because these types of assets must go through probate, they need to be properly cataloged, managed and distributed according to the wishes of the deceased. This process can be challenging, and working with a Probate Attorney or Estate Attorney helps to avoid any confusion or legal disputes.
Probate assets are in contrast to Non-Probate Assets, which are not required to go through probate and automatically transfer to beneficiaries after a death.