Operation of Law

Some assets pass outside of your will by operation of law.  This means that there is a law on the books that causes or permits an asset to pass to a beneficiary without going through probate.

Real Estate

You may own real estate with another person. Whether that property will pass by operation of law depends upon the “magic words” on the deed. If you bought your house with your spouse prior to April 4, 1985 and have certain magic words on the deed, you may have an “entireties deed”, or if you bought your house with anyone else, including your spouse, you might have a “joint tenancy with survivorship” deed. If you bought a house with someone else after that date, you might have a survivorship deed. It all depends on the magic words. With the right magic words, the house will pass to the surviving spouse or other person named in the deed by operation of law. If the magic words are missing, your interest passes under the terms of your Will. If you would like to contact us and provide us with a copy of the deed, we can tell you whether your house will pass outside of probate or not.

You may also own real estate purchased after August 2000, in your name alone, but with another person named on the deed as a beneficiary under a Transfer on Death deed, or more recently, a Transfer on Death designation. As long as the beneficiary has survived you, upon your death, regardless of what’s in your Will, the property will pass to the named beneficiary.

You can find a little more information about avoiding probate for real estate here.

Motor Vehicles

You may own a car or other vehicle with a certificate of title. If it was issued after July 23, 2002 it may have a second name on it, either as a Transfer on Death beneficiary or as a survivorship beneficiary. If so, so long as the beneficiary or co-tenant has survived you, upon your death, regardless of what’s in your will, the property will pass to the named beneficiary or co-tenant.

You can find a little more information about having your vehicles avoid probate here.


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