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Estate Planning: How Do You Know What You Need

Estate Planning How do you know what you need

Calhoun County, AL – The probate process for a deceased person’s estate can be lengthy, tedious, and frustrating. Having a Last Will and Testament in place is an important piece of an organized estate plan. However, it is important to know that not all assets have to transfer ownership via a Will. In fact, most assets that people own have the ability to transfer ownership quite easily through the use of beneficiary designations or the way the asset is titled for ownership. This brief article will explore these different methods.

Beneficiary Designations

All retirement accounts, such as a 401(k), IRA, or Roth IRA, offer beneficiary designations. These beneficiary designations someone (or multiple people) to be listed as the party to inherit the assets in the account. Life insurance policies offer beneficiary designations as well. In addition to a primary beneficiary, it is usually wise to list a contingent beneficiary as well, in the event the primary beneficiary were to predecease the account owner. If no beneficiary designations are listed on a retirement account or life insurance policy, these assets are subject to probate at the death of the account/policy owner. At that point, assets are dictated by whatever the Will of the deceased states in the document. If that person did not have a Will, which is called dying intestate, the state where the deceased lived will have its own rules about how assets will be divided among the deceased’s relatives.

Asset Titling

If someone passes away and their home, land, or car is titled only in their name, then it could be subject to probate. It is usually wise to have a joint owner listed on the title or the deed. In Alabama, if an asset is titled as Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship (JTWROS), and one of the owners passes away, then the remaining owner of that asset takes complete ownership of that asset individually.

Transfer-on-Death & Payable-on-Death Beneficiaries

Assets such as bank accounts and brokerage accounts can also benefit from being jointly titled. However, if the intention for this asset is to remain individually owned, there is another option available. Most brokerage accounts offer the option to name a transfer-on-death (TOD) beneficiary. As the name states, at the death of the account owner, the assets transfer over to the ownership of the stated beneficiary. This TOD beneficiary would have no access to the account while the account owner was still living. Similarly, banks offer the ability to name a payable-on-death (POD) beneficiary.


You should always consult a licensed estate attorney for any specific estate planning questions.

Estate Planning How do you know what you need

Editor’s Note – Jonathan T. Jones® is a local financial advisor who will be a contributing author for the Calhoun Journal. He will be writing financial pieces to help readers understand the market and many changes that are currently happening in the financial world. 


Jonathan T. Jones, CFP®

Jonathan T. Jones, CFP®
Wealth Manager/Financial Advisor, RJFS
501 Quintard Avenue, Suite 17
Anniston, AL  36201

Any opinions are those of Jonathan Jones, CFP® and not necessarily those of Raymond James.

Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services Inc., member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services are offered through Raymond James Financial Services Advisors, Inc. Wealth and Retirement Services is not a registered broker/dealer and is independent of Raymond James Financial Services.



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