Layin’ It on the Line: Use the ‘transfer on death’ form to avoid probate court
Avoiding probate can be tricky, but you might be able to do it successfully by following these three straightforward ways.
If you own stock certificates or have a brokerage account, the “transfer on death” option can be used to avoid probate. This option is often called the “Uniform Transfer on Death Securities Resignation.”
You can designate a beneficiary to inherit individual stocks, bonds and brokerage accounts. The holder of the securities fills out a form and, once signed, the beneficiary will receive the stocks, bonds and any other assets at the death.
The forms are usually available at the county tax auditor’s office; most banks and stock brokerage firms will stock them.
This form doesn’t mean you’re immediately signing over your assets. You maintain 100% ownership. All you are doing is allowing your help to be reissued to your beneficiary at the time of your death. Transfer on death means just that — at your end, your named beneficiary will assume ownership of the designated assets.
The beneficiary must provide proof of identity to receive the reissued assets, a simple and easy process. Generally, a passport, driver’s license or voter resignation is proof of identity.
The “transfer on death” option isn’t just for securities and bonds but can be used, in some states, for automobiles, boats and motor homes.
It works the same way: You still own the asset and, at the time of death, the ownership is retitled to your beneficiary.
About 30 states allow for this quick and easy asset transfer. Using this system could save considerable legal expenses and prevent a long delay.
In addition, funds on deposits in banks can also avoid probate; they are called “payable on death” bank accounts (POD).
Payable on death bank accounts offer one of the easiest ways to keep money regardless of the sum to avoid probate. All that is needed is a simple form provided by your bank naming the person you want to inherit the money in the account at your death.
As long as you are alive, the person you named to inherit the money in a POD account has no rights to it. You can spend the money and change the beneficiary anytime you wish. The owner of the bank account is in complete control.
Note: Like with all important financial decisions, consult a professional for information on any changes in laws and or advice on potential tax implications.
Lyle Boss, a native Utahn, is a member of Syndicated Columnists, a national organization committed to a fully transparent approach to money management. Boss Financial, 955 Chambers St., Suite 250, Ogden, UT 84403. Telephone: 801-475-9400.