What Happens to Your Assets When You’re Gone?

Older couple discussing estate planing
  1. Assets you hold with another person, such as your spouse, can go to them directly depending on how assets are titled.
  2. Assets in accounts that designate a beneficiary can go straight to that person – this includes life insurance, retirement accounts, bank accounts, and brokerage accounts. Make sure that you keep these designations up-to-date, or your ex might end up with a surprise fund.
  3. If you have already set up a trust, assets that were properly funded get distributed according to the terms set out in a trust document by your estate planning attorney.
  4. Other assets, such as real property that is titled as tenants in common, is likely to go through probate – a legal process where the court will review and distribute your assets. Probate avoidance, because of the time, cost and work, is one of the greatest motivators for people setting up living trusts.
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