There are ways to transfer property other than through a last will and testament. Many people strive to avoid having their assets go through probate through the use of estate planning. A will is only the beginning of estate planning. So much more can be done to safeguard and transfer a New Jersey resident's assets.
One way to transfer assets without them having to go through probate is through beneficiary designations. Keeping the beneficiary on things such as retirement accounts, life insurance policies, annuities and any other accounts current can ensure that these assets are transferred according to the holder's wishes. Beneficiary designations on these types of accounts will override a will even if the will was done after a beneficiary was chosen. This is why is it crucial to keep them current.
Another way to avoid probate is to own an asset jointly with "rights of survivorship" to whomever is to inherit it upon death. When the original owner dies, the joint owner will automatically become the sole owner of the asset. This is not always the most effective way to transfer property, however, because the property may become vulnerable to the joint owner's creditors and there could be tax ramifications. Also, if the joint owner dies first, the property could end up in probate anyway.
There are other ways to keep assets out of probate, such as through the use of trusts. No matter what method a New Jersey resident chooses, it may be a good idea to have some advice and assistance with putting any plan into writing. Estate planning can be as simple or complex as necessary, but it does need to comply with our state laws and include certain language to ensure one's wishes are carried out.
Source: Forbes, Estate Planning For The Rest Of Us, Liz Davidson, Sept. 12, 2013