This module deals with the various ways that wealth can be transferred when an individual dies. Topics discussed include probate, wills, state intestacy laws, and will substitutes. The tax and nontax characteristics of specific forms in each of these categories are explained, and advantages and disadvantages of each method are explored. Laws that can affect the administration of an estate are also explained.

4-1: Identify property interests that must go through probate, the objectives and characteristics of the probate process, the duties and activities of a personal representative, and common laws and circumstances that may affect estate distribution at death
4-2: Analyze a situation to identify the advantages and disadvantages of the probate process
4-3: Identify the requirements for a valid will, characteristics and types of wills, and the clauses and purpose(s) of each clause of a will
4-4: Evaluate a situation to determine whether specific will clauses are adequate and whether a will needs to be amended
4-5: Describe the characteristics and purpose of intestate succession statutes, situations in which they apply, and the disadvantages of relying upon such statutes for distribution of a decedent's estate
4-6: Identify the characteristics of a given will substitute
4-7: Analyze a situation to identify the advantages and disadvantages of a will substitute
4-8: Evaluate a situation to select the most appropriate will substitute

Author: Kirsten Waldrip, JD, LL.M.

Kirsten Waldrip, JD, LL.M., is an associate professor of estate planning and taxation at the College for Financial Planning. Kirsten worked in private practice as an estate planning and administration attorney prior to joining the College. She graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies of business and communication, she received her JD from Syracuse University College of Law, and she received her LL.M. from University of Denver. You can contact Kirsten at

Complexity Level: Overview