As in other states, in Virginia, your estate may have to pass through probate before distributing to your heirs and beneficiaries. This is the process the government uses to confirm that your will is valid and ensure the transfer of your assets according to your wishes.
Unfortunately, this process is often complex and time-consuming, and assets that pass through probate may be subject to extra costs that could diminish the amount your loved ones receive. However, with the right estate planning tools, you may be able to avoid probate for some or even all your significant assets.
1. Joint tenancy
Joint tenancy allows you to name another person as co-owner of an asset, including a home, vehicle, bank account or other property. After you die, ownership of the asset passes directly to the surviving co-owner without going through probate.
2. Transfer on death designations
You may also be able to avoid probate by designating certain assets as payable or transferable to another upon your death. Bank accounts, real estate deeds and vehicles as well as stocks, bonds and other securities remain under your sole ownership during your life, then pass directly to your named beneficiary.
3. Living trust
With a living trust, you may place assets in a trust fund that remains under your control during your lifetime. After your death, your designated successor trustee may then transfer property directly to beneficiaries according to the terms you create for the trust.
Whether you have a few heirs or many, how you approach your estate planning today may have a major impact on the legacy you leave behind. If you have concerns about how your assets will pass on after you die, it is a good idea to revisit your options frequently.