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What's a transfer-on-death deed?

Estate planners use a lot of strategies to help their clients avoid probate for their heirs. The probate process can be long, drawn out, stressful and costly. It can also be frustrating for heirs who could benefit from certain assets now to have to wait -- and navigate the probate process -- before they can receive their inheritances.

One popular strategy for avoiding probate may apply to just one piece of real estate or multiple pieces of real estate. It's called a "transfer-on-death deed." This is a special kind of land deed stating that a specific piece of real estate property will be transferred to the ownership of a specific person at the time of death. Through this transfer-on-death deed, the probate process will be bypassed for that property.

Many people use a living trust to bypass probate for a specific piece of property, but the transfer-on-death deed is much simpler and less expensive. All you have to do is sign a transfer-on-death deed -- before you die of course -- and the deed does not become valid until after you die. You will own your property as usual for your remaining years, and you will have the right to sell the property at any time. Your transfer-on-death beneficiary will not have any right or claim to your real estate until after you die.

To makes sure your transfer-on-death deed is valid, it's important to register your deed with your county land records offices. You can also revoke the deed and create a new one if you want to change your beneficiary at a later time. The process of drafting, signing and registering one of these documents is fairly straightforward, and any Newport Beach estate planning attorney can offer guidance on the process.

Source: The Balance, "Avoid Probate With a Transfer-on-death Deed," Julie Garber, accessed Nov. 17, 2017

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