Wills, trusts and other ways to pass assets

People in New Jersey may want to avoid probate by passing their assets in ways other than a will. Wills still do have some advantages, however. There are a number of ways that a person can pass their assets to their intended beneficiaries, both within the structure of a will as well as through several other vehicles.

One alternative is using the state's transfer-on-death laws for accounts and securities. These allow people in New Jersey to pass their accounts and stocks to another person following their death without needing to go through probate court. New Jersey does not allow real estate or vehicles to pass via transfer-on-death methods, however.

Other methods to pass property outside of a will include adding the intended beneficiary to a real estate deed as a joint tenant. Upon death, the property will then pass to the co-owner without going through probate. Spouses can own property through a tenancy by the entirety for the same effect. Life insurance proceeds will also pass directly to the named beneficiary without being probated, although there may be tax implications involved. Trusts are not probated and may be established to pass assets quickly and privately as well.

A distinct advantage of wills is that they are formal documents that allow people to pass all of their assets as intended without relying upon a large number of different estate planning tools. People who are preparing to plan how their assets will be distributed when they die may want to seek the advice of an estate planning attorney, who may be better able to advise clients regarding the potential tax liabilities. Legal counsel may also discuss other matters such as potentially gifting assets prior to death.

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