Simplest Estate Planning – By: Jeff Bedingfield – Published in the BizWest Thought Leader column on September 27th, 2018.

Have you ever wondered if there is a simple way to pass assets at death? Maybe for that elderly parent with few remaining assets? Well, there is. It certainly isn’t appropriate for all, but it can work well in the right situation.

            First, assets that name beneficiaries (IRA’s, life insurance, annuities, etc.) avoid complexity at death because a will or trust has no effect on them. They are contracts that dictate who will receive the benefits when the owner dies regardless of what a will or trust provides.

            Second, the way assets are titled can also simplify matters at death. Couples can title their residence as joint tenants with right of survivorship (not as tenants in common). When a joint tenant dies, the property automatically becomes the property of the survivor and only the recording of a death certificate is required to accomplish that.

Or, a single person, may sign and record a beneficiary deed that designates who gets the residence when the owner dies. Again, only the recording of a death certificate is required. What’s more, the owner can revoke or change the designated beneficiary at any time before death.

Bank accounts and brokerage accounts can be simplified as well. Again, for a couple, a joint account will automatically transfer to the other spouse when one dies. With a single individual, the account can be made a “transfer on death” account. When the account owner dies, the individual(s) named as beneficiary receive the cash, stock or bonds in the account.

None of the methods described in this article requires that a person have a will and all methods allow the assets to without probate proceedings.

These methods are not for everyone, but can be very effective if done thoughtfully and with the advice of professionals.

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