This is the next post in our series on how proper estate planning can help those in Hartford and other Connecticut areas to avoid the probate process after a loved one passes away. Our last article provided an overview of topics which this series will be addressing. It also stressed the need of retaining an attorney to assist you with your estate plan. Retaining counsel helps to ensure your affairs are handled properly and that your estate documents withstand legal challenges. In this article we will discuss classes of assets which can pass automatically upon death and do not require probate. If you are in need of assistance then contact our office today to speak with a lawyer.
Bank accounts and brokerage accounts are transferred without probate through the naming of a beneficiary
Accounts with most banks, brokerages, and similar institutions allow the account holder to name a payable on death (POD) beneficiary when one’s account is opened. This beneficiary will inherit the balances of the account upon the account holder’s death and do not require probate to transfer the accounts in the death beneficiary’s name. Upon the account holder’s death, the beneficiary will need to present the death certificate to the institution. They will then need to complete whatever paperwork and administrative processes which that particular institution has in place. It is important that one makes sure that the heirs they have listed on various accounts are the people they would want to have inherit their assets. It is common, for example, for someone to get divorced, or for circumstances to otherwise change, and the person then forgets to update their beneficiary information.
Transferring real estate, cars, and other assets without the need for a Connecticut probate
If real estate is jointly owned between two people then it can be passed to one of them without probate in the event that the other dies. For this to be accomplished, the property must be jointly owned “with rights of survivorship.” This is otherwise known as owning property as “joint tenants.” Making sure that one’s real estate is properly deeded is important to ensuring that this protection is in place. Connecticut also allows for other property, such as automobiles and more, to be held in joint tenancy.
Some states recognize a “transfer on death” deed in regard to real estate. This would allow one to essentially name a beneficiary, as they would with a bank account, who would receive the property without probate upon death. The person would not need to be a joint owner of the property to receive this benefit. Connecticut, however, does not recognize such deeds and the only way for real estate to pass to another without probate or a trust is through joint ownership. It is worth noting that Connecticut does allow the transfer on death registration of vehicles. This means that when you register your vehicle, you can designate who the vehicle should pass to in the event of your death. Probate will not be required for the transfer.
One of the first steps in avoiding probate and having your final wishes honored is to conduct an audit of all of your affairs. This will help to determine if you have properly named all of your beneficiaries, if you have titled your property correctly, and if you are using transfer on death options when available. Our Hartford estate planning lawyers will audit this information for you, as part of the larger process, and ensure that all of your affairs are in order. If you are in need of assistance then contact our office online or by telephone to schedule an initial consultation.
We also service the Connecticut areas of Wethersfield, New Britain, Rocky Hill, East and West Hartford, Bristol, Glastonbury, and Manchester, as well as the Middlesex County cities of Middletown and Cromwell.