What Is Probate? Will My Estate Need To Be Probated?

Generally speaking, probate, or the probate process, involves collecting a decedent's assets, paying estate creditors and taxes and distributing property to estate heirs/beneficiaries. Two factors are generally considered when determining whether a decedent's estate must be probated:

1) At death, did the decedent own any land (or minerals) solely or with another person as a tenant in common, and

2) does the decedent have "probate assets" that exceed $50,000 in value.

If the answer to one or two is yes, then the person's estate must be probated. "Probate assets" are assets which get distributed through a person's Will. Probate assets are not assets which are owned in Joint Tenancy (with rights of survivorship) or that already have death provisions such as a beneficiary designation (example - life insurance policy), a POD (payable-on-death) designation (example - checking account) or a TOD (transfer-on-death) designation (example - an investment account).