Transfer of Assets After Death

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One of the most important goals of estate planning is to make sure your assets are transferred to your heirs according to your wishes after death.  If you fail to have a valid will, the state may distribute your property after you die.  This is known as “dying intestate” and the state will decide who gets y our property without any regard as to your family members.

Transferring Assets after Death

Whether or not you choose to transfer assets with a will or through a trust, you will need to sign a legal contract that should be administered only by a trusted attorney.  You should transfer your assets to a specific individual or trust. 

Property, Vehicles, Non-Secured Assets

  • Property — Transfers of real estate or personal property that occur by “operation of law” take place when one joint owner of a property dies and the owner’s interest passes to the other owner(s) who survive the deceased owner. 
  • Vehicles — To transfer the title of a vehicle, you should obtain a “Transfer of Vehicle Ownership Title” from your local DMV.  By filling out these documents, you can appoint a beneficiary as the person to whom the title is being transferred.
  • Non-Secured Assets — The easiest way to keep money out of probate is to establish a “payable-on-death” bank account.  You can name the person you want to inherit the money in the account at your death. 

Process of Transferring

There are several ways that property can be transferred at the time of death.  These include:

  • Contractual arrangements — The promise of the other party to the contract involves a payment or transfer to beneficiaries designated by the deceased upon their death.
  • Joint ownership — Where upon the death of one of the joint owners, the jointly held property passes to the other.
  • Living trusts — A living trust can be a contractual arrangement where property is transferred to a trustee who manages and distributes it for the beneficiary of the trust.
  • Transfer by probate administration — To transfer property to those entitled to it under the terms of a will.

Help from an Estate Planning Attorney

You should always review your beneficiaries after a major life change.  If you are putting together a will, keep in mind how transfers by contract or law may negate what your wishes state in your will.  This is where it can be extremely valuable to work with an attorney that is familiar with estate planning so that you can ensure there are no unexpected issues that arise upon your death.