By Sarah Stewart Legal Group

Many people believe having a Will allows their heirs to avoid probate.  But, this is simply not true.  If a person has a Will, the heirs have to go to court to distribute the assets of the deceased.  The Will provides instructions to the Court for how those assets will be divided.

Though having a Will gives you control of who gets what when you die, it does not stop your heirs from having to endure the costs and stress associated with the court process of probate.

If you’re looking to reduce your heirs’ stress, and keep them out of Court, the most common estate planning tactic is a Trust.  However, if you are opposed to a trust for any reason, there are other probate avoidance options.

Probate Avoidance on Non-Real Estate Assets

Most people are aware of the options for probate avoidance for personal, non real estate, assets. Those options include, for bank accounts, naming payable on death beneficiaries and joint owners.  For stocks, bonds, and mutual funds, you can name beneficiaries and contingent beneficiaries.

In Oklahoma, you also have the option to sign and file a Transfer on Death Deed to allow your heirs to transfer your real property after your death by filing Affidavits and a Death Certificate with the County Clerk where the property is held.

Owner can Sell or Transfer without Permission of the Beneficiaries

A Transfer on Death Deed allows the owner to keep ownership of the property until the day he or she dies.  That means he or she can sell, lease, or doing anything else he or she wishes with the property without the consent of the Transfer on Death Deed beneficiaries. TOD Deeds also allow the owner to change his or her mind and choose new beneficiaries as he or she needs throughout his or her life.

In this respect, Transfer on Death Deeds are better than joint ownership, because if you need to sell the property or otherwise change your mind about ownership, as a joint owner, every owner has to consent to and sign off on the change.

Avoid Probate and Smooth Transfer

As discussed before, the property will transfer as soon as your heirs file their Affidavits and Death Certificate with the County Clerk.  There is no need to probate the estate, and no delay in the transfer of property.  The transfer is complete the day the Affidavits and Death Certificate are filed and your heirs can agree to do what they wish with the property.

TOD Deeds are one tool in a large toolbox available to you for estate planning purposes.  Everyone needs a unique and personalized plan that fits their needs and helps them reach their goals.  Please reach out to a professional to help you fully plan your estate.