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Tobin O’Connor Concino P.C. Practicality in Practice
  • ~ Washington DC Business Law Attorneys ~

How to Keep Almost Any Asset Out of Probate in the District of Columbia


If a person dies without a will (the legal term for “without a will” is “intestate”), then the court gets involved in passing the person’s assets on to the person’s close relatives.  If the person does leave a will, then the court still gets involved.  The court must honor the deceased person’s wishes about who gets what part of the person’s property, even if the designated heirs are non-relatives or even charities instead of individuals, but it can take a long time for the beneficiaries can get their money, and the estate might have to pay lots of taxes, debts, and fees, so the amount that goes to the beneficiaries might be significantly smaller than what the deceased person left behind.  It is no wonder, then, that many people want to keep as much of their wealth from going to probate as possible.  A will is not a magic wand that instantly transfers money into the bank accounts of your heirs, but there are ways to keep certain assets out of probate.  An estate planning lawyer can help you decide which options are best for you.

Living Trust 

It takes some work to set up a living trust, but it is an effective way to keep most or all of your assets out of probate.  You start by establishing the trust and getting a tax ID number for it, which is a very similar process to establishing a company and getting a tax ID number for it.  You must write a trust document naming yourself as the trustee, the person authorized to take money out of the trust to give to its beneficiaries.  In the trust document, you also name a successor trustee, the person who will become the trustee when you die or become incapacitated.  Then you transfer your assets out of your name and into the name of the trust.

Joint Ownership 

If you jointly own property with someone else, if the joint ownership includes “right of survivorship,” then the other owner gets your share as soon as you die, without the property going through probate; this type of joint ownership is called joint tenancy.  A married couple can also own a house through “tenancy by entirety,” in which case the surviving spouse automatically keeps the house, without probate.

Transfer on Death or Payable on Death Provisions 

You can designate a bank account as “payable on death” to a beneficiary, in which case it immediately becomes theirs when you die; they do not have any right to the money while you are alive, though.  “Transfer on death” (TOD) registration for stocks and TOD deeds for real estate work the same way.  The TOD option is not available for vehicle registration in the District of Columbia, though.

Contact Tobin O’Connor Concino P.C. About Estate Planning 

Probate can be time consuming and stressful, but you can save your relatives a lot of money and hassle by getting help from an estate planning lawyer.  Contact the skilled Washington DC estate planning attorneys at Tobin O’Connor Concino P.C. today.

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