TOD (Transfer on Death)

How Do I Leave My Home to My Family?

Figuring out what will happen to your assets after you pass away, is an unpleasant but necessary task. This ensures that your assets are distributed to the people you want. The publication, the day, recently published a story, “Planning to leave your home to your heirs,” that reminds us that it’s best to begin your estate planning, as soon as possible.

Death can unexpectedly impact young or middle-aged families, and your family may not be sufficiently prepared, if you don’t have a will. Estate planning can make certain that your wishes are clearly stated and executed.

Real estate is frequently given to an adult child, grandchild, or is divided among several heirs. Once you know who will receive the property, discuss your plans with these people to keep them apprised of your plans and avoid any unpleasant surprises.

If you include your home in the will, you can stipulate precisely who should benefit from it. You can also say if you want the home to stay in the family or be sold.

Dividing the interest in a property evenly among beneficiaries might seem fair, but it can also create some unexpected complications. If one beneficiary wants to move into the home and another wants to sell it and split the proceeds, things could get dicey. Discuss this issue with your beneficiaries to resolve this potential conflict in advance. One beneficiary could buy out the other beneficiaries’ shares in the property to take sole possession of it. However, you may need a life insurance policy to be sure that the cash is there for a buyout.

A will is also used to delegate responsibilities to certain heirs. You select an executor to oversee the disposition of your estate after your death.

An outstanding mortgage balance can cause some trouble, when passing on a property. Any debts you have at the time of your death, need to be paid before your estate can be settled. If you were still making mortgage payments, be sure your beneficiaries have a plan to avoid a default. Beneficiaries, a surviving spouse, the executor of estate, or any other party can continue to make payments to your bank to avoid a foreclosure process. There are several ways that your beneficiaries can resolve a mortgage, after they take possession of the home. In addition to just selling the property, they can refinance the loan or pay off the mortgage with any assets they have or receive from your estate. That way, they would own the home free and clear.

Review your will regularly to keep it up to date. Make a change if a beneficiary dies, if your own circumstances change, or if your relationship with an heir goes bad.

You can also transfer your home to a living trust. This lets you use and benefit from the asset while living and then transfer it to beneficiaries upon death. This will avoid the probate process and save heirs time and money. The trust document identifies beneficiaries and determines how the estate will be distributed after death. It can also name a trustee to oversee this process and avoid conflict among beneficiaries.

One downside of a living trust is that any outstanding debts must be taken care of before the home and any other assets in the trust can be transferred to beneficiaries.

If a beneficiary is comfortable with assuming some responsibility for owning your home, you can also update the deed to include them. This can be especially helpful, if your spouse isn’t currently on the deed. This will make transfer of the home easier. If the deed says: “transfer on death,” you own the home outright until your death, then it passes to any beneficiaries you name in the deed. When the deed includes the words “joint tenant with right of survivorship,” ownership of the home automatically transfers to any other co-owners on the deed, when you pass away.

Reference: the day (February 15, 2019) “Planning to leave your home to your heirs”

Trust Declared Owner of Funds in POD Decision by Kentucky Appellate Court

Known as a POD or a Totten trust, a Payable on Death account is a way to own accounts, usually in a bank, that is not subject to probate.

Kentucky law affirmed that money remaining in a POD account after one of the owners died, belongs to the survivor. That’s the whole point of a Payable On Death account.

TrustKnown as a POD or a Totten trust, a Payable on Death account is a way to own accounts, usually in a bank, that is not subject to probate and is considered to be an arrangement between a bank and a customer. When one of the owner(s) dies, the ownership of the account and the assets automatically transfers to the beneficiary or beneficiaries. As a result, they are the new owners. This is a fairly commonly used method of transferring assets at death.

Justia reported in the recent Kentucky case, “Coe v. Schick,”that the use of a Pay on Death (“POD”) beneficiary designation was at issue.  It shows the dangers of using the POD beneficiary designation, without consulting with a qualified estate planning attorney.

The bank account and a Certificate of Deposit (CD) were purchased by William in the name of his Trust.  However, the problem was that his granddaughter Jennie was a named as the POD beneficiary. William’s pour-over will and trust left all of his assets to his two children Bill and Bonnie. The bank named as trustee at William’s death negotiated the CD and moved its proceeds along with the checking account funds into a new, single trust account after his death.

However, Jennie asserted her rights to the CD and the bank account in William’s probate proceeding. The estate disallowed her claim and ultimately made final settlement and distribution.

After more than eight years of litigation, the Court of Appeals heard the case.

The Court held that a trust can’t have a POD beneficiary designation because a trust can’t die. The Court of Appeals found that the CD was a joint account. State statute defines an "account" as "a contract of deposit of funds between a depositor and a financial institution, and includes a checking account, savings account, certificate of deposit, share account and other like arrangement."  A "joint account" is also "an account payable on request to one (1) or more of two (2) or more parties whether or not mention is made of any right of survivorship[.]"

Because the CD was issued to the Trust orJennie alternatively, it was payable on request to either of them, the Court said. As a result, the CD satisfied the statutory definition of a joint account.The Court went on to explain that joint accounts payable in the alternative, like a CD, give the party who has possession the freedom to negotiate them, even to the detriment of the other party.

In this situation, the bank, as successor trustee, negotiated the CD and placed the funds in a separate account for the benefit of the Trust and its beneficiaries. The Court of Appeals found it proper for the trustee to dispose of the CD in this manner, even without Jennie's authorization or knowledge. The funds from the negotiation of the CD were the sole property of the trust and were to be distributed by the trust's terms.

This case is an example of what happens when assets in an estate are not properly aligned with the estate plan. The family could have been spared the $75,000 in legal fees, not to mention the acrimony within the family, by working with an experienced estate planning attorney to resolve all of these matters well in advance.

Reference:Justia(June 29, 2018) “Coe v. Schick”

The Most Common Estate Planning Mistakes

After years of practicing estate planning law, attorneys are all too familiar with some of these mistakes, and can help you avoid them, if you are smart enough to get help from a professional.

After years of practicing estate planning law, attorneys are all too familiar with some of these mistakes, and can help you avoid them, if you are smart enough to get help from a professional.

MP900400332Some people like to think they know everything, and that often applies to estate planning. The problem is, they don’t learn about the mistake—their heirs do! By working with an estate planning attorney, you can avoid making these mistakes and spare your family the stress and expense.

The Hockessin (DE) Community Newsreports in a recent article, “The dumbest estate planning moves,”that the misuse of joint ownershipis extremely frequent.

You probably know that settling an estate without a will,can be very time consuming and expensive. One way that people try to avoid probate, is with property owned jointly with rights of survivorship.

That’s because the joint owner becomes the exclusive owner of that property, when the other owner passes away. This is the case for a bank account or a family home.

Many seniors say their joint owner, usually a son or a daughter, will gladly share the account with their siblings after the parent passes. But will the joint owner then tell their siblings that’s how Mom wanted it?

More often than we’d like to believe, the result is that the other siblings may get a lot less than Mom wanted—or nothing at all. If the surviving owner does follow through with Mom’s instructions and does truly square up with his brothers and sister, there may be other tax consequences.

That’s because the process of squaring up may be considered a gift for tax purposes.

In real estate, there’s a chance the remaining owner will be burdened with a low-cost basis. As a result, she will be hit with capital gains taxes, when later selling the asset. Mom’s effort to simplify things may have actually caused a lifetime of family conflict.

Instead, avoid these troubles with a transfer on death account or the use of a revocable living trust.

A real estate attorney can handle the title change.  However, before you start dealing with the deed, sit down with an estate planning attorney. He or she will be able to explain how this may impact your tax liability and the conflict it may spark within the family.

A better option is to create an estate plan, properly prepared with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney. This will guide the distribution of assets and prevent or at least mitigate the possibility of siblings battling over the estate.

Reference: Hockessin (DE) Community News (April 24, 2018)“The dumbest estate planning moves”

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