Think all your property goes through probate? Think again.

We all want to protect one property, assets and loved ones after we pass away so that they can still have a bright future. Typically, a person trying to protect their assets and their loved ones will have a will drafted for them. However, there are many more options these days that a person may choose instead of having a will. Since there are so many different choices and options, it is best to speak to one of our estate planning lawyers at the Higgins Firm. We will answer any questions you have, talk to you about your needs and situation and help you choose the plan that is best for you and your family.

There are several ways to transfer assets at the time of death without the probate of a will. Some of these ways include but are not limited to:

  • Transfer on death designations or TODs

There was a Uniform TOD Securities Registration Act enacted in 1989 which allows non-probate transfer of specifically registered investment securities. The owner keeps full control during their lifetime but an official death certificate and proper identification by the named beneficiary is all that is needed to transfer ownership. The items that can be transferred this way might include vehicle registration, property deeds, retirement accounts, and bank accounts. This does not need documentation to be effective and may be revoked at anytime by the owner.

  • Joint ownership or survivorship designations

     Land and assets may be owned this way. This option requires an official death certificate and proper identification by the survivor to transfer ownership at the time of death. A disadvantage to this option may be if a co-owner is involved in a lawsuit or divorce they may lose ownership to their part of the property to an outside party. The outside party may have a legal right to force a co-owner to sell their asset in order to divide its value.

  • Life Insurance

     Life insurance is often paid to the designated beneficiary or beneficiaries without the need for a will or probate. It is best to talk with a professional lawyer to make sure that this option is best since there may be hidden tax issues to deal with.

  • Gifts giving during a lifetime

     If a living adult is mentally competent they may choose to give away their assets but it is important to make sure the gift is given according to the law. This will help avoid confusion if the intended gift is not stated in a will. A will often overrides an intended gift if it is given according to the law.

  • Trust Funds

   There are many different types of trust funds. Some of them can be given while the person who created it is alive and others are only effective upon death. Some can be revoked and others are irrevocable. It is important to discuss tax and other issues with a lawyer before deciding if this option is best.


Even though these options may seem like the better choice than having a will, wills also have advantages. If you have a will, you can transfer all your assets with just one document. They allow the creator to make their wishes known and they have a history which some of these newer methods do not making them more widely accepted.


It is difficult to make these kinds of decisions. There is a large amount of things to consider and plan for. If you are confused or have questions about which options may be the right one for you, then you should contact one of our compassionate and experienced estate planning lawyers at the Higgins Firm. We know how hard this process can be and we will work with you to make it as easy as possible. We will help you decide which option is the right one for you.


Please contact us today online or by calling 800.705.2121 to discuss your legal options.


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