What is the difference between probate and non-probate assets?

This is the point when things get a little technical and legalistic. Really, how often does someone use the terms “probate assets” or “non-probate assets?” When a person dies in Pennsylvania, all of their property is divided into two categories. Probate assets are those assets that the decedent owned in their name alone and in some circumstances jointly with someone else but without rights of survivorship (also known as Tenants in Common). Non-probate assets pass directly to another person by operation of law (e.g., jointly owned bank accounts, life insurance, IRAs, 401(k)s, real estate owned as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, and many more). When planning your estate, it is important to know and understand the difference between probate and non-probate assets. The distribution of non-probate assets is not controlled by your will or Pennsylvania’s intestacy laws.