When any of Wynn at Law, LLC’s clients own real property in Wisconsin, we look at a Transfer on Death Deed (commonly called a TOD Deed or a TODD) to see if it is a suitable fit for their estate plan. It can sometimes wipe out the need to go to probate court, which is a time and cost saver.

If you have $50,000 or more in probate assets, probate court comes into play when distributing assets. Probate assets are all assets NOT automatically transferred to another person when the owner passes. Life insurance proceeds, for example, skip probate because a beneficiary is identified. So, if assets can avoid probate, why not place a TODD on an asset like a vacation home to transfer it directly to beneficiaries, such as the kids?
The answer in some cases is that if you need to protect assets – for or from your children – you might not want to transfer them on your death. For the minor kids, you might want to transfer the asset to a trustee for their benefit until they’re older. In the case of adult children who may have creditor problems or a looming divorce, you might again want a trustee instead of transferring the property to them directly. Otherwise, a TODD making assets ‘unprobatable’ is an alternative for every Wynn at Law, LLC client because the property doesn’t need to be owned free-and-clear. You can have a mortgage, a second mortgage, even a line of credit against the property and still use the TODD to pass it on… and skip probate.
Let’s say you had a car and some bank assets totaling $49,995 and a $89,000 getaway cabin up north. All in, the assets would require probate, but if a TODD was placed on the cabin, the cabin passes to your heirs (they still get the debt if it was mortgaged, by the way) and the rest of the estate would avoid probate because it’s under the $50,000 limit.
Your accountant, or your beneficiary’s, will point out that there may be tax benefits to this strategy as well, because the transfer isn’t considered a ‘gift’ subject to gift tax. The TODD may also reduce or eliminate capital gains taxes if and when the property is sold by the beneficiary.
Even if you have the Transfer on Death Deed, you can still choose to sell a property while you’re living: It’s yours! The TODD designation does not give the beneficiary ‘ownership’ of the property while you’re alive… if the document is drafted properly. Call an attorney.
*The content and material in this original post is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  
Photo by Ekaterina Kondratova, used with permission.

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