Categorizing Your Assets
A person often has many different types of assets, including bank accounts, investments, land, personal possessions, real estate, and others. It is important to understand your assets before deciding how to distribute your estate. There are two types of assets: non-estate and estate.
Non-estate assets are assets that are not distributed in your will. These types of assets typically pass automatically to specific individuals upon your death. As a result, you do not need to include them in your will.
A type of non-estate asset are assets that you own with another person(s) in joint tenancy. Assets you own in joint tenancy have a right of survivorship. This means that your share of ownership in the asset automatically passes to the surviving owner(s) upon your death. As an example, a family home that is considered to be a “matrimonial home” under the Family Law Act will often be owned in joint tenancy and in many cases pass automatically to a surviving married spouse upon death of the other spouse.
Another type of non-estate asset are assets that designate beneficiaries. An example of this includes insurance policies, where a beneficiary of that asset is selected. Assets such as this automatically pass to the designated beneficiary upon death.
It is strongly advised to check with a lawyer about what assets need to be included in your will. Keep in mind that in some cases, joint bank accounts may be determined by a court to be estate assets, depending on how that bank account was used and the intention of the primary account holder. In some cases, the account may not automatically pass over to the other person named on the account, but would have to be distributed to beneficiaries through a will or through the Intestate Succession Act.
Estate assets are part of your estate and are to be distributed as part of your will. These types of assets can be gifted to any individual or organization of your choosing.
A type of estate asset includes assets that are in your own name. Another type of estate asset is an asset that you own as a tenant in common. Owning an asset as a tenant in common means that you own an individual and undivided share in the asset. Owning an asset in this manner means you have the right to transfer ownership of your share by deed, will, or other conveyance. The right of survivorship, where an asset would pass automatically to a joint tenant upon death, does not apply to assets owned as a tenant in common.