While a will can incorporate many parts of your estate, it’s important to note that not all properties pass through a will. Some assets can pass outside of a will. As outlined on the Dial-a-law website, there are certain types of ownership or accounts that you can set-up that would pass outside of a will.
One of the more common examples is joint tenancy. This is where two or more people may own a property together. If one person gives up their ownership – either by choice, or involuntarily (such as a death) – the ownership would transfer to the surviving owners. For instance, if three people owned a cottage together in joint tenancy, one of those owners could not leave the cottage to his or her children in the will. If one owner passed away, the ownership of the cottage would transfer to the two surviving owners.
Another type of asset that passes outside of a will are those with designated beneficiaries. Certain types of accounts, such as registered retirement plans or insurance polices, usually ask the owner to designate a beneficiary. These designations operate outside of a will, and are up to the bank to transfer the finances.
The same principle also applies to trusts. A trust is an account set-up for another person. Because these funds are already set aside for a named individual, the funds pass to the trustee outside of the will as well.
While many people may not want to think about what might happen in the event of their deaths, going over all of your assets – whether they pass through a will or not - can help you provide for children, grandchildren, or prepare for other special circumstances with the resources in your estate. It’s best to consult with a legal professional to find out what provisions work out best for your specific family dynamic.