Simply having a will on file doesn’t automatically mean assets will be transferred as intended when the time comes to fully execute an estate plan. This is because assets need to be properly titled to ensure they’ll be distributed as per desired wishes upon the death of an estate plan’s creator.
If a property’s title isn’t set up in accordance with how it’s intended to be passed along, the property in question may end up going to certain beneficiaries even if this was not what was stated in a will. This often applies to real estate and financial accounts, which are typically transferred based on how they are titled or by the listed beneficiaries. Only assets that are part of a deceased individual’s probated estate are controlled by a will.
With life insurance, benefits are only passed along via an estate if the estate is specifically named as a beneficiary on the policy. Beneficiaries also determine asset distribution with retirement and company benefit plans, even if a will states different wishes. With real estate, how a physical property is titled will determine whether it goes to a surviving business or life partner, a third party or the decedent’s estate. Titling jointly owned property can be especially challenging in community property states. If a trust is created, assets a trust creator (grantor) wishes to include need to be re-titled to the trust to ensure intended distribution occurs.
How a property is titled can also affect any associated estate taxes. Because the titling process can vary based on what assets are involved, an estate planning attorney can prove to be an important resource for a single individual, business owner or couple wishing to distribute assets in a certain way. A lawyer can also perform periodic estate plan reviews so appropriate adjustments can be made.