A beneficiary deed also called a transfer on death (TOD) deed, is a special type of deed that can be used to transfer ownership of real estate outside of probate upon the death of the grantor. A beneficiary deed can provide an alternative to a last will and testament to pass real property to a beneficiary on the death of the owner. As of 2020, over thirty states recognize beneficiary deeds. In Colorado, beneficiary deeds are a legitimate means to pass real property at death, the legal requirements for a beneficiary deed can be found in the Colorado Revised Statutes section 15-15-401 et seq.
The owner must sign a new deed during his lifetime that states who should inherit the real estate after the death of the owner. The deed must be signed, notarized, and recorded with the county clerk recorder’s office in the county where the real estate is located. After signing and recording a beneficiary deed, the grantor remains the owner of the real estate during their lifetime. Even after recording, a beneficiary deed will not transfer the property until the grantor passes away. During the grantor’s lifetime, they have the option to change their mind by recording another beneficiary deed naming a different grantor or simply selling the property to a third party.
A properly executed and recorded beneficiary deed will avoid probate for the specific piece of real estate covered in the deed. If there are more assets in the estate a beneficiary deed may not be enough to avoid opening a probate proceeding for the estate. But if probate is needed the deeded real estate would not be included as a part of the probate estate. Instead of having to obtain an order from the probate court in order for the property to be actually transferred, a certified death certificate will need to be recorded at the county clerk recorder’s office. This serves as notice that the grantor has actually passed away and the beneficiary listed in the deed has received the property. A beneficiary deed will not work to avoid estate taxes.
A beneficiary deed can be used as an alternative to a Revocable Living Trust, to transfer real estate to a beneficiary without going through probate proceedings, but a trust is still preferable in many situations. A trust can provide specific instructions as to how an inheritance is distributed, managed, and distributed as well as provide protection for the beneficiaries who will inherit the property. A beneficiary deed can work together with a trust in order to put together a comprehensive estate plan that avoids probate and protects all of the assets passed to the beneficiaries, not just real estate.
Beneficiary deeds are not always recommended, some of the major drawbacks include:
If your estate consists mainly of real estate held in your sole name without a co-owner and you would like to leave your inheritance to a single individual, a beneficiary deed could be the principal solution for your estate planning needs. If you would like to discuss whether a beneficiary deed is right for you, contact Mile High Estate Planning today to schedule a free consultation.