Every state offers numerous ways to pass property to others at death without having to go through a will or probate. 

By the time you've worked your way through these 8 ways, there may be little if anything left to pass through your state’s probate process

1. Set Up Payable-on-Death Accounts

  • The Paperwork
  • Adding a POD Designation to a Joint Account
  • Choosing Beneficiaries
  • If a Beneficiary Dies Before You Do
  • If You Change Your Mind
  • Claiming the Money

2. Name a Beneficiary for Your Retirement Accounts

  • Choosing a Beneficiary
  • Required Minimum Distributions From Retirement Accounts

3. Name a Beneficiary for Your Stocks and Bonds

  • Transfer-on-Death Registration
  • Registration of Government Bonds and Notes

4. Name a Beneficiary for Your Vehicles

  • Transfer-on-Death Registration
  • Joint Ownership With the Right of Survivorship
  • Special Transfer Procedures for Vehicles

5. Name a Beneficiary for Your Real Estate

  • Can You Use a TOD Deed?
  • How It Works: An Overview
  • Possible Drawbacks of TOD Deeds
  • How to Prepare, Sign, and Record the Deed
  • Three Ways to Cancel the Deed—And One Way Not To
  • How the New Owner Claims the Property

6. Hold Property in Joint Ownership

  • Kinds of Joint Ownership That Avoid Probate
  • Joint Tenancy
  • Tenancy by the Entirety
  • Community Property
  • Alternatives to Joint Ownership

7. Create a Living Trust

  • How a Living Trust Avoids Probate
  • Other Advantages of a Living Trust
  • Why You Still Need a Will
  • Do You Really Need a Living Trust?
  • Creating a Valid Living Trust
  • What Property to Put In a Trust
  • Taxes and Record Keeping
  • Amending or Revoking a Living Trust Document

8. Take Advantage of Special Procedures for Small Estates

  • Why Even Large Estates May Qualify
  • Claiming Wages With an Affidavit
  • Claiming Other Assets With Affidavits
  • Simplified Court Procedures


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Jurisdictional relevance:

There are versions of this article for each State.

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