Estate planning can be a challenging concept on many levels. Uncomfortable decisions must be made regarding end of life matters as well as the distribution of assets to surviving loved ones. By developing a comprehensive estate plan, however, individuals can gain peace of mind in the knowledge they have power over who gets what and they have significantly reduced the possibility of future familial disputes.
A comprehensive estate plan typically consists of numerous documents including wills, trusts, powers of attorney and advanced healthcare directives. Property owners, however, might also explore the benefits of a transfer on death deed (TOD).
If a person owns real estate without a co-owner, he or she has limited options by which they can transfer the property to a beneficiary without relying on a lengthy probate process. While a living trust can help avoid this part of probate, many individuals find it more beneficial to use a transfer on death deed. Transferring property by way of a TOD, also called a beneficiary deed, can be a straightforward process that removes any confusion surrounding how the real estate is to be distributed upon your death.
Can the deed be revised?
While states might differ slightly in procedural details and applicable fees, the process is largely the same. A new deed clearly stipulating who inherits the property must be signed and recorded with the public land records office, usually in the county where the real estate is located rather than the county where the owner resides. When the owner dies, the death certificate is recorded in the same public land records office. These two documents are taken together to determine clear property ownership. If the owner fills out a TOD deed and then has a change of heart regarding the property’s distribution, a new deed can simply be filled out with a different heir which rescinds the previous TOD. Further, the property owner can file a statement of revocation of the first deed to avoid any unnecessary confusion.
Drafting a comprehensive estate plan can be a complex undertaking. It is wise to seek the guidance of an experienced attorney who can answer your questions and provide direction regarding contingencies and other challenging factors.