This term has a variety of meanings. For estate tax purposes it means all property owned or controlled by a decedent at the time of death. Lifetime gifts are also included (and the tax paid on them is deductible from the tax.)
For probate purposes the estate generally means any asset owned by the decedent to the extent a will or statutes of descent and distribution are needed to tell who gets it. The probate estate does not include any assets merely controlled, but not otherwise owned, by the decedent that would be included in the estate for estate tax purposes.
assets in the probate estate and estate tax estate are:
insurance owned by decedent with beneficiary
estate created for decedent by someone
estate retained by decedent on a transfer of assets
to someone else
appoint who gets property on decedent's
Life insurance owned by decedent with beneficiary designation
IRA with beneficiary designation
Life estate created for decedent by someone else
Life estate retained by decedent on a transfer of assets to someone else
Power to appoint who gets property on decedent's death
In any event the probate estate is a less inclusive concept than the estate for estate tax purposes.
Estate can also refer to types of ownership of property. For instance there is a life estate. The holder has a right to the use or income of property during the owner's lifetime. There are also an estate for years and estates for other periods of time.
This is a system of classification of types of ownership based mainly on the duration of the rights. What is commonly called outright ownership is called an estate in fee simple in this system. It means forever. Naturally the owner does not live forever, but this concept of ownership encompasses passage of ownership to heirs of the decedent and to their heirs after their death and so forth. There are other terms in this system but the most commonly used are life estate and an estate in fee simple or an estate in fee.
Donald M. Thompson * 55 W. Monroe #3950; Chicago, IL