Which of Your Assets Are Considered Probate Assets?

Inheriting some items can lead to the inevitable probate process, the legal procedure that is required but can take a long time to establish who is entitled to what. Plenty of assets do not require probate, which is good news for those who are inheriting items, but these are subject to some strict definitions.

So, what types of assets are subject to probate? When do you need to start looking for a probate special administrator in Nevada?

What Are Probate Assets?

In the majority of cases, probate is reserved for the property that is owned solely in the name of the person who has now passed on or the person owned an interest in real estate as a “tenants in common” as opposed to a joint tenant. 

Assets that commonly go through probate include business assets, investments, bank accounts, vehicles and any assets left out of a trust over a certain value. Even a house can be put into a trust.

Each probate asset is different and should be considered when making a list of assets for a will. The key point to understand is that if you wish for any probate asset to stay out of the probate process, in most instances you can put the asset into a trust instead and avoid probate.

Business Assets 

If you are a business owner and have business assets, you might consider creating a trust to provide for a smooth transition after your death. The probate process can be time consuming and you might want the person handling the transition of your business to be able to avoid it. By putting your business assets into a trust and naming a trustee who can take over, your business can continue running smoothly without the interruption of probate.

Insurance Policies and Investments

Life insurance policies can be placed into trust as well. When the proceeds are paid out, if they are paid into a trust, they can be distributed to the beneficiary without much delay. Similarly, if investments like a brokerage account or other individual financial assets are placed into trust, they can pass to your heirs without going through probate.

When making a list of assets for a will, think about what you own and what types of assets are subject to probate. Are most of your assets probate assets? If so, do you want everything to go through probate, or would you rather set up one or more trusts to allow each item on your probate asset list to bypass probate? Depending on the state you live in, there may be certain smaller value inheritances which can be handled in a more streamlined way.

Our affordable Nevada probate attorney can explain the specifics of the Nevada system, and help you determine probate vs non-probate assets.

What Are Non-Probate Assets?

Non-probate assets include jointly held assets, assets with low monetary value, and payouts from a policy or pension. It’s likely you have several of these on your list of assets for a will.

If any of your assets are jointly held, like a house that you own together with your spouse, then the co-owner will become the sole owner of the asset on your passing without the asset having to go through probate.

Common non-probate assets include:

  • Money in a bank account containing a payable-on-death (POD) designation.
  • Co-owned savings bonds with a spouse.
  • Real Estate that is owned in joint tenancy.
  • Assets held in a living trust.
  • Retirement accounts such as a 401k if a beneficiary has been named.

Do I Need Probate if there are no Assets?

Many people are wondering if probate is always required when a loved one passes away. Probate helps when assets need to be transferred to heirs or beneficiaries. If there are no assets then, there is often no significant advantage to going through the probate process, except for the fact that a probate process can formally close the estate of the deceased.

How to Search for Them

Finding the assets of someone who has passed away can be quite a difficult task. Searching for probate assets generally starts with reviewing the personal papers of the deceased. If they have a reliable filing system then this might be a way to track down money that has been left behind or other pensions and accounts they have paid into.

Checking their emails, online history, and mail might also give some clues to where they own accounts. Even if you can’t access them initially, you can work out where money and probate assets might be located.

If you believe there to be assets, it doesn’t matter if they are probate vs. non-probate assets. You need to find them to try and work out the next step. Ultimately, you might have to go into detective mode. It’s a good idea to get professional help with this, as it can be a stressful time, and a probate attorney might be able to advise you on where you can find the assets, from safety deposit boxes to elsewhere in private records and belongings.


For more than 30 years, Attorney Lee A. Drizin has practiced in the areas of estate planning, probate, trusts, guardianship, and real estate matters representing clients throughout the state of Nevada.

Drizin Law is providing this information for educational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion as to any specific facts or circumstances. This information is based on general principles of Nevada law at the time it was created and you should be aware laws frequently change. Moreover, the laws affecting you may differ depending on the circumstances. You should consult with a qualified attorney in your own state or jurisdiction concerning your particular situation. Review of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.