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  • Attorney Jill Johnson

Simplifying Your Estate Plan

Updated: Oct 28, 2019


One way to simplify your estate plan is to make assets “non-probatable.”

Why do this?

  • It makes life at bit easier for the person (your Personal Representative – called an Executor in some states.) wrapping up your estate.

  • It’s private. A non-probate asset is not part of the will so the information will not be publicly available.

Here’s what you might consider:

1.) Use Payable-On-Death (POD) Designations

Go to each of your financial institutions (banks, credit unions.) Ask to put a beneficiary designation on each of your accounts. For example, you can direct that a checking or savings account be “Payable on Death (POD)” to a beneficiary.

Upon death, that beneficiary usually just needs to show up with a certified copy of the death certificate and identification to have the funds paid out. Some banks or credit unions may also require additional paperwork, but oftentimes it is quite a simple process.

2.) Use Transfer-On-Death Designations

The same type of designation can apply to a brokerage account only it has a different name: TOD or Transfer on Death.

3.) There is even a way to transfer real estate now in Wisconsin with a TOD Deed.

For many people, most of their assets can transfer outside of the will. All of the following are non-probate assets:

  • Joint tenancy with right of survivorship (“JTWROS”) assets

  • Survivorship marital property

  • Life insurance beneficiary

  • Retirement plan beneficiary

  • Joint bank account

  • Payable on Death (POD) bank account

  • Transfer On Death (TOD) brokerage; real estate

  • Trust beneficiary proceeds

One last tip: You may want to designate an account to hold money for your “final disposition,” (meaning cremation, burial and other final expenses.) You can indicate in your will where those funds are and you may wish to keep that account as a probate asset that your Personal Representative can access.


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