Estate administration occurs after a person dies, and it is the process of dividing and distributing that person’s property and assets to heirs and beneficiaries according to the laws of the state and the directions in the decedent’s Will. Normally, an executor is appointed in the Will to distribute property according to the Will’s directives. However, if someone dies without a Will (or the will is incomplete or invalid), an estate administrator must be appointed to divide the property according to common law. Before the estate can be divided and settled among the beneficiaries and next-of-kin, the executor or administrator has to determine which assets require probate and which are non-probate, to understand what his or her responsibilities are. Most people die owning both probate and non probate assets so this determination is an important step.

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What are probate assets?
Probate is a legal process that occurs after someone has died. Under probate, it must be proved in court that the decedent’s Will is valid, their property must be inventoried and assessed, all debts and taxes must be paid, and then the remainder is distributed according the directions in the Will. Probate assets, then, are any property covered in the Will.

What are non-probate assets?
Non-probate assets can be transferred directly rather than being lumped, put through court, assessed, taxed and distributed. These include:

  • Joint and survivorship property
  • Life insurance benefits
  • Retirement benefits
  • Living Trusts
  • Accounts payable or transferable on death

Probate and non-probate proceedings each have their own strengths and weaknesses, so look over your options carefully to choose one that’s right for your situation.

Keeping organized records will help your executor with estate administration. Be sure they know where your records are kept, and how to access them. Important documents for estate administration include:


The executor or estate administrator isn’t necessarily responsible for the funeral or memorial service, but if the decedent made provisions for such services in his or her Will, it’s the executor’s job to make sure the funds are available after probate.

Whether you’re looking to get your own estate in order, or manage someone else’s, Rocket Lawyer can help. Our online interviews make it easy to create personalized legal documents, and you can even Find a Lawyerif you need more help.

Get started Begin Your Estate Plan Answer some questions. We’ll take care of the rest.

Get started Begin Your Estate Plan Answer some questions. We’ll take care of the rest.