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How To Avoid Probate (Will Substitutes)

Ways To Transfer Assets At Death

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There are four groups of ways in which your assets can pass to your heirs.

We will look at these methods for avoiding probate, one at a time -- after we explore what happens to people who have an interest in property as collateral for a debt.

The four basic means of transferring assets are:

By Law

Assets that automatically pass by law to your heirs because of the way that title is registered. Assets which are registered this way avoid probate. For example, if your house is registered in your name and your spouse's name "as joint tenants with the right of survivorship," the house passes automatically to the survivor.

By Contract

Assets that pass by contract go directly to your beneficiaries without going through probate.

By terms of a Trust

Assets can also be passed to your heirs without going through probate if they are in a trust. Assets will pass to your heirs according to the trust instructions. Although a trust can be challenged, it's a much more difficult and expensive process for the person making the contest than a challenge to a Will.

By Probate

All other types of assets, whether you have a Will or not, will pass by means of probate.

  • If you have a valid Will, your assets will pass to your heirs according to the terms of the Will.
  • If you do not have a Will, your assets will be distributed according to your state's intestacy laws.

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