Life & Estate Planning Law Center, PLLC
1225 Martha Custis Dr.
Suite 103
Alexandria, VA 22302

Ph:  (703) 820-3600
Fax:  (703) 820-8602 


Estate Planning Basics: Transferring Property Upon Death

Estate Administration is the means by which an estate is passed on to the next generation, friends and charities. Coordinated advance planning permits savings of estate taxes, attorney fees, probate costs, time and “red tape” for your survivors. It may also protect beneficiaries who are minors or may be incapacitated at the time your estate is distributed. A well-prepared estate plan may consist of several documents including a Will and one or more trusts to carry out your goals and objectives.

Your Probate Estate includes everything you own individually in your sole name without any type of beneficiary designation.  

Non-Probate Assets includes assets that are held jointly with another person or that pass directly to a designated beneficiary by contract. Bank or brokerage accounts and real estate are among the types of property that are often held as "joint with right of survivorship."  Life insurance or retirement account benefits are two examples of assets that pass outside of probate by contract of the account or policy if you have properly designated beneficiaries.

Probate is the process by which your property is distributed to your beneficiaries under the supervision of the court in your local jurisdiction. In Virginia a Commissioner of Accounts oversees the process and audits the accounts of Executors (where there is a Last Will and Testament to guide the disposition of property to your beneficiaries) and Administrators of intestate estates (where there is no Will and the property passes according to state law).