Assets generally passes from a deceased individual to a surviving individual in 1 of 3 different ways:
- By operation of law. This means that jointly-owned property (for example, real estate and bank
accounts) pass automatically to the surviving joint owner.
- By contractual terms. The most common examples of these types of assets are retirement plans and life insurance policies, in which the assets pass to the beneficiaries who are named on the beneficiary designation forms.
- By the terms of a Last Will and Testament. These assets are those (i) that are owned only by the deceased and (ii) do not have beneficiary designations.