Arizona Lawyers weigh in on Beneficiary Deeds and End-of-Life Planning
You've owned your own home for many years without a co-owner, yet you're unsure will happen with your property when you pass away. You have a beneficiary in mind, but you'd rather avoid the expensive and lengthy process of going through the probate court system.
In this case, you have other options - particularly transferring your property via a beneficiary deed (also known as a transfer-on-death-deed). In addition to transferring property, a beneficiary deed would include any debts secured by liens, mortgages, contracts, and other obligations designated to the property, according to Arizona law (33-405).
Through a beneficiary deed in Arizona, you may transfer property to multiple beneficiaries who "take title as joint tenants with right of survivorship."
If you plan on transferring the property in the future to a beneficiary, you may do so at any time, but the deed only takes effect when you die. This means that while you're living, your beneficiary has no legal right to the property. In addition, no gift tax will be incurred on the deed during that time, but beneficiaries may have to pay estate and capital gain taxes following the transfer.
How to file
Filing a beneficiary deed is simple. You can follow the guidelines laid out in 33-405 and then have the deed notarized.
Beneficiary deeds must then be recorded with your county's public land records office. If, at any point, you decide to change your beneficiary, you may revoke the deed and create a new one. At the time of death, a death certificate would be recorded within the same public land records office. The property title would then be transferred to the beneficiary.
Doing this without the counsel of an experienced probate attorney can create confusion and a host of legal troubles in the future.
What if a beneficiary deed isn't right for me?
If you decide that a beneficiary deed isn't the right course of end-of-life planning, you may consider a will or trust.
Like a beneficiary deed, a last will and testament allows you to decide what will happen with your property and assets when you die. In addition, a last will is a convenient method for avoiding probate court and making sure your wishes are carried out.
Unlike a beneficiary deed or last will, a trust acts as a third party, which manages your assets for you and disperses them to certain beneficiaries.
If you're considering preparing for end-of-life planning, it's best to first weigh your options. Before making any decisions, you should first consult with an experienced attorney at Brown, Naegle, Crider & Jensen LLC, based in Mesa, Arizona. Contact us today to learn how we can help you.