Q: My husband and I own all of our assets jointly. How do I leave something to my family if I die before him?
A: It's important to understand the difference between probate and non-probate assets. Non-probate assets are trust assets, jointly owned assets, assets with beneficiary designations and assets with payable or transfer on death provisions. In other words, assets that we are able to look at and know who owns them after a death.
Non-probate assets are generally those assets that are owned solely in the decedent's name. Those types of assets require a determination of who owns them following a death.
If all of your assets are truly jointly owned, you don't have any probate assets to designate to your family or assets in which you can name a family member as a beneficiary. For you to designate assets to family members, you are going to need to adjust ownership of some of the assets so that they are no longer jointly owned.
Once you are able to get some assets in your own name, you have a couple of options. First, you can leave the asset in your name alone and allow it to fall into the probate estate. Your will can then designate who gets the assets after your death.
Another option maybe to designate a beneficiary on the account. If the asset allows beneficiary designations, you can name your family member POD or TOD beneficiary and they will receive the asset without the need to go through probate.
However you proceed, you will need to remove your husband's name from at least one of the assets. That is almost certainly going to require his involvement.
Since he is going to be involved, why not involve him in the entire plan? You may consider creating a joint revocable living trust and moving all of the assets into the trust. Once in the trust, you can create a distribution for your family member. You can accomplish your goal of including a loved one, leaving the remaining assets to your husband and still avoid probate. A win, win, win situation.
The place to start is with your husband. He is going to need to be involved so have a discussion. Once you guys are on the same page, accomplishing your goal is just a matter of making a couple of decisions and putting them in writing.