Most of us do.

The law divides the universe of assets into “probate assets” and “non-probate assets.”

Probate assets typically have titles.

Cars, real estate, some bank accounts, ownership in closely held businesses, all represent probate assets.

Passing probate property to your heirs usually means a probate proceeding after death.

That’s why we call it “probate property,” but I know you are way ahead of me on that one!

Non-probate assets have beneficiary designations.

Life insurance, retirement accounts, some bank accounts (e.g. POD accounts) pass to your heirs without the necessity of a probate proceeding.

If you own one or more probate assets, best to have a will.

Case Study 

I did an estate plan for a successful woman a few years ago.

After making several million dollars in the tech business, and still young enough to have a boy-child at home, she developed bad cancer.

One of her goals was to avoid probate.

Not a problem – we simply formed a trust for her son, transferred all of the probate assets to it, and named the trust as beneficiary of her retirement accounts and life insurance.

Done deal.

After she passed, her sister called me – small problem – after I had my client’s estate neatly packaged to meet her goals, she bought a car – and did not transfer it to the trust.

Cars have titles.


Fortunately, she also had a will that “poured over” into her trust.