Examples of Non-Probate Assets

While every person’s situation is different, here are some examples of non-probate assets that may be right for you.

Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship

A common example of a non-probate asset is a family home that is owned by two people (such as a husband and wife) in Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship (JTWROS). When a home or other property is owned in this way, the property automatically becomes the property of the surviving owner when the other owner dies.

Joint Tenancy ownership is often used for bank accounts and other financial accounts. Cars and other real estate (such as vacation homes) can also be owned in this manner.

Tenancy by the Entirety

Tenancy by the Entirety is another form of joint ownership that is sometimes used for family homes and other real estate. This type of ownership also avoids the probate process, but it is only available to married couples.

Assets Held in Trust   

Bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and mutual fund accounts can be titled  “in Trust for” and “payable on death” to a particular person. This will keep the accounts from being included in your estate when you die and will pass the accounts directly to the specified person upon your death.

Revocable Living Trusts (trusts that go into effect while you are still living) can also be used to automatically transfer assets to a particular person at the time of your death.

Life Insurance Policies

A life insurance policy is a contract with an insurance company that generally names the person or persons you have designated to receive the proceeds of the policy after you die. Because the beneficiary is named in the contract (policy), he or she may be able to receive the proceeds without having to wait for the policy to pass through probate. Additional benefits may include associated tax savings to the designated beneficiary or to the decedent’s estate.

IRAs, 401k Accounts, and other Tax-Deferred Retirement Plans

IRAs, 401k accounts, and other tax-deferred retirement plans can name the person who will become the owner of the account after your death. This allows that person to receive the account after you die without having to wait for the account to pass through the probate process.

Next: Estate Planning FAQs