If you have a lot of assets and you aren't very organized about your estate planning, it's time to get things under control. Part of planning your estate is understanding what assets are given to a beneficiary upon proof of your death, and what assets will need to go through probate court in order to be distributed. If you haven't looked over the beneficiaries you have assigned to life insurance policies, pensions, bank accounts, CDs, and other assets recently, it's important to review everything periodically. You may be surprised at who your named beneficiaries are and will need to change any policies if you have new people you want to leave your money to.
Joint Bank Accounts
If you have a sizable amount of money just sitting in a bank account, it can be useful to have another person you trust on the account with you. This way, if you become incapacitated, the person can keep your bills up to date while you recover. When you pass away, the funds in the account will go to the co-owner of the account. If you have several children you want to leave the same amount of cash to, opening up a joint account with each child will solve this problem quickly. Each co-owner will have access to the funds as soon as their name is on the account and will keep the property at the time of your death without going through your will.
When you own property that doesn't have anyone else listed as an owner, your property will go through probate court. You have the option of setting up a life estate. This is where you live in your home until you no longer need it, and your chosen heir receives the property in the event of your death. Talk with your attorney while planning your estate to learn more about this option.
Specific Property vs. a Percent of the Estate
How you give out your property in a will matters. You can leave specific items such as a house, car, boat, or vacation property to individuals that you choose. Your other option is to have your assets liquidated and have each heir receive a percentage of your total estate. You can also create a will that is a combination of the two. It is up to you how to give out your assets, but you will need to plan accordingly with an estate lawyer.