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Avoiding Probate With Transfer-on-Death Deeds

In my opinion, a revocable living trust is the best estate planning tool available to avoid probate, maintain the privacy of your affairs and provide for incapacity or disability. However, for some people, a revocable living trust may not be the right fit. In these instances, it makes sense to consider a transfer-on-death deed, which is authorized by Title 58, Section 1251, et seq., of the Oklahoma Statutes. A transfer-on-death deed is signed by the record owner of an interest in real property, designating a grantee beneficiary or beneficiaries of the real property. Like other types of deeds, it is filed in the county land records. Yet, a transfer-on-death deed does not take effect until the owner’s death. At that time, the grantee beneficiary or beneficiaries accept the real property by executing a short affidavit, attaching the affidavit to a copy of the owner’s death certificate and recording the affidavit and death certificate together in the county land records. This must be done within 9 months of the date of death.

Assuming all of the legal requirements are complied with, transfer-on-death deeds avoid probate. Transfer-on-death deeds also allow one to retain control of their property while they are living. Finally, transfer-on-death deeds minimize or eliminate some of the negative tax consequences involved with joint tenancy and other forms of co-ownership.

For tangible personal property such as bank accounts and IRAs, one should be sure to designate beneficiaries. That way, the assets pass automatically at death without the need for probate.