Probate is the process whereby your executor manages and distributes your assets according to the law with the court’s oversight. Not every asset you own will be under the authority of the probate court. According to the State Bar of Michigan, there are certain assets that will transfer without the involvement of the court and therefore are nonprobate assets.
Your typical assets that must go through probate are those requiring some action to transfer them upon your death. Nonprobate assets do not require an action to transfer the ownership. This does not generally include the assets and personal property you list in your will. Even though you name heirs in your will, the court must still ensure that the transfer happens legally, and your executor will manage the asset until the time the court releases it to disperse to the heir. Nonprobate assets will typically be one of two types of specific assets that have legal means by which they transfer upon death.
Assets that you and another person own will typically transfer to the other owner upon your death. Most commonly this happens when you have a spouse and you both own your assets together. Your spouse owns everything when you die without the need for the court to intervene.
Do note that some jointly owned assets may still have to go through probate. The best example is a business. It is a little different because you could pass on your part of the business to an heir. However, your partnership agreement will generally cover what will happen.
Any asset for which you named a beneficiary will transfer to that person upon your death automatically. This might include life insurance and retirement accounts. A trust is another example of this type of asset where you name a specific heir and set it up to transfer upon your death.