1. Estate Planning: Introduction
  2. Estate Planning: Estate Planning Basics
  3. Estate Planning: Introduction To Wills
  4. Estate Planning: Other Types Of Wills
  5. Estate Planning: Will Substitutes
  6. Estate Planning: Introduction To Trusts
  7. Estate Planning: Marital And Non-Marital Trusts
  8. Estate Planning: Charitable Trusts
  9. Estate Planning: Estate Taxation
  10. Estate Planning: Life Insurance In Estate Planning
  11. Estate Planning: Health Problems, Money Matters And Death
  12. Estate Planning: Conclusion

by Cathy Pareto, CFP®, AIF®

A will substitute is a technique that allows you to transfer property at your death to a beneficiary outside the probate process. This will not only expedite the distribution process but also avoid any costs associated with probate. What are considered will substitutes?

Right of Survivorship
Joint tenancy with right of survivorship (JTWROS)
and tenancy by entirety (TBE) transfer assets directly to the surviving tenant at the death of the other. However, tenancy by entirety can only be used by legally married husband and wife and is not recognized in all states.

Beneficiary Designation
Naming of a beneficiary can also be considered a will substitute. Examples of these include:

  • Payable-on-Death (POD) Accounts: In states where it is allowed, this involves depositing funds for the benefit of another, payable on the death of the original depositor.
  • Transfer-on-Death (TOD) Accounts: Similar to a payable-on-death account, except it is used for individual stocks or a stock account.
  • Contract Provisions Effective at Death: This can include life insurance, annuity contracts, qualified plans, 403(b) plans, 457 plans and IRAs, where you designate a beneficiary to whom payments are made after your death.
  • Deeds of Title: In some states a valid deed may be used to pass a present interest to the grantee during your lifetime to avoid testamentary formalities.
  • Funded Living Trusts: Revocable living trusts is the most common form of will substitutes. These trusts are funded during your lifetime to avoid probate at death.
Advantages and Disadvantages
The following are many advantages to having will substitutes:
  • You can avoid probate.
  • They are easier to amend.
  • They are usually revocable until death, which means that you maintain control.
  • For planning tools like TODs or PODs, they are cheap (or free) to execute.
The following are some disadvantages of will substitutes:
  • Set-up costs can be high (especially for living trusts) because they usually include attorney fees for setting up the trusts and contracts.
  • You may incur some maintenance costs.
  • You may also be on the hook for some taxes if the substitute you choose is not set up properly.
Estate Planning: Introduction To Trusts

Related Articles
  1. Personal Finance

    Do Retirement Accounts Go Through Probate?

    It's tough when retirement accounts have go through probate, tying up those funds after death. Here is how you can prevent that from happening.
  2. Retirement

    Which Estate Transfer Technique is Right for You?

    This article explains the difference between the two estate transfer methods -- a will and a trust, and the circumstances under which each can be used.
  3. Financial Advisor

    Are The Wealthy Better Served By Trusts Or Wills?

    Trusts and wills are both means to pass on wealth to heirs. Which of these is likely to serve your needs better if you have considerable wealth?
  4. Investing

    What's a Substitute?

    A substitute is a good that satisfies the same needs as another.
  5. Financial Advisor

    Why Estate Planning Is Easier Than You Think

    When done properly, estate planning ensures that your beneficiaries receive your assets in a way that is controlled by you. Here is how to do it right.
  6. Financial Advisor

    A Quick Guide to High-Net-Worth Estate Planning

    A quick estate planning guide for high-net-worth individuals to help minimize taxes and costs, protect assets and plan for care.
  7. Retirement

    Estate Planning Must-Haves For Unmarried Couples

    Society provides benefits to those who wed and punishes those who don't. Find out how to protect yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions
  1. Depreciation Can Shield Taxes, Bolster Cash Flow

    Depreciation can be used as a tax-deductible expense to reduce tax costs, bolstering cash flow
  2. What schools did Warren Buffett attend on his way to getting his science and economics degrees?

    Learn how Warren Buffett became so successful through his attendance at multiple prestigious schools and his real-world experiences.
  3. How many attempts at each CFA exam is a candidate permitted?

    The CFA Institute allows an individual an unlimited amount of attempts at each examination.Although you can attempt the examination ...
  4. What's the average salary of a market research analyst?

    Learn about average stock market analyst salaries in the U.S. and different factors that affect salaries and overall levels ...
Trading Center