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Non-probate transfer methods in addition to wills

As some New York residents may already know, having a will helps to protect one's family and assures that beneficiaries the decedent chooses receive assets. There are other ways, often used in conjunction with a will, to allocate some assets after death. Learning about specific transfer methods will enable grantors to distribute assets as they see fit without the need for probate.

Transfer on death is one way of transferring assets. In 1989, the Uniform TOD Securities Registration Act was enacted and allows registered securities to be transferred without probate. In this type of asset transfer, the individual maintains control of the securities until his or her death. The beneficiary needs only an ID and a death certificate to assume ownership of the transferred assets. Other than securities, some states allow for transfer of motor vehicles, deeds for real estate and bank and retirement accounts. Such transfer designations may be changed at any time. Giving someone a power of attorney may help if the transferor becomes ill, and the assets meant to be transferred need to be sold.

Another type of asset transfer is when property or other assets are owned by two individuals. Ownership is written in a format that specifies survivorship designation. In such cases, a death certificate and an ID is all that is needed for the transfer.

Having life insurance is another way to ensure a beneficiary is provided for without probate. The person who purchases life insurance names a beneficiary who will receive the insurance benefits directly. It is important to review life insurance beneficiary designations on a routine basis.

Consulting an attorney when determining how one's heirs will inherit is important. The attorney will help by structuring an estate plan that incorporates different ways to provide for family and friends.

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