Alternative Methods of Bequeathing Property

Filed under: Estate Planning

While everyone should meet with an estate planning attorney to discuss plans for their future, you might also wonder if there are alternative methods of bequeathing property. By law, much of your estate will pass through the probate process unless you make other arrangements. However, there are certain types of assets that can bypass this court procedure, if you have correctly established beneficiaries for the accounts.

Examples of these types of assets include:

  • Life insurance proceeds: Upon your death, these are payable to the beneficiaries that you have named on the policy.
  • Qualified or non-qualified retirement plans, such as IRAs and 401(k) plans: When you set up these accounts, you were asked to name a beneficiary, who can access the funds in the event of your death.
  • Some types of joint bank accounts: It is possible to establish bank accounts so that they are transferable to a named beneficiary upon presentation of your death certificate. But if you did not establish the account specifically with this provision in mind, chances are that these assets will be automatically included in probate proceedings unless you have another estate plan in place.

Indeed, some assets can be transferred automatically upon your death, provided that you anticipated this need and established beneficiaries ahead of time. However, there are three important things to remember:

  • The transfer of retirement assets can trigger certain tax implications for your loved ones. You should still discuss these issues with a qualified estate planning attorney, so that you can avoid accidentally placing a burden upon your beneficiaries.
  • Many types of assets are not transferable in this way, meaning you should still consult with an estate planning attorney to avoid the probate process.
  • Estate planning involves a lot more than transfer of assets after your death. You should still consult with an attorney to make plans in the event that you’re ever incapacitated, and to establish your final wishes regarding burial or other considerations.

For more information on estate planning and the transfer of your assets, call our office to schedule an appointment.

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