A decedent’s probate estate refers to all of the decedent’s assets that require probate, which is the court-supervised marshalling and distribution of a decedent’s sole-named assets. As a rule of thumb, if an asset is in the decedent’s name alone and is not payable to anyone else (ex., pay on death account, life insurance), then that asset will need a court probate process to distribute to beneficiaries. The probate estate may be only part of the decedent’s whole estate. For example, a decedent was worth $5,000,000 at the time of death; $3,000,000 was in a living trust, $1,500,000 was jointly-owned, and a piece of real estate worth $500,000 was in his sole name. The decedent’s “gross estate” would be $5,000,000, but his “probate estate” would only be $500,000.
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