Simplifying Estate Planning Through Transfer-On-Death Deeds: YOUR HOUSE

Most folks believe estate planning to be one of the more complicated areas in their financial planning.  The truth is, however, while some have more complex estate planning needs, for many, there are easy ways of ensuring that assets pass along to heirs in a way that’s not complicated at all!  “Wicked Simple” estate planning steps can be taken by just about anyone.

A Transfer-on-Death (TOD) registration on an account is one simple strategy that allows the holder to designate beneficiaries who are to receive those assets.  It’s a little-known fact, though, that over 20 states (including Maine) allow for TOD registration on the deed to what is often their largest asset:  THEIR HOME!

TOD registration on your real estate offers several advantages for homeowners. Here are a few key benefits:


Probate is the legal process through which a deceased person’s assets are distributed. A TOD deed can help you pass on your property to a named beneficiary without going through probate, saving time and potentially reducing costs.


A TOD deed simplifies the transfer of real estate by designating a beneficiary who will automatically assume ownership upon your death. This bypasses the need for court involvement or a will, making the transfer process smoother.


A TOD deed allows you to retain full control and ownership of your property during your lifetime. You can continue to use, rent, mortgage, or even sell the property without restriction. The TOD beneficiary designation only comes into effect upon your passing.  You can update it at any time with new beneficiaries.


Probate proceedings are typically public, which means anyone can access information about your estate and beneficiaries. With a TOD deed, the transfer happens outside of probate, ensuring greater privacy for you and your beneficiary.


Avoiding probate can potentially save your estate money as probate proceedings involve court fees, attorney fees, and other expenses. By utilizing a TOD deed, you can help reduce these costs and ensure that more of your assets go directly to your chosen beneficiary.


Assigning beneficiaries for your home requires filing a new deed with your local Registry of Deeds.  While your attorney can (and probably should) help you to do this, it’s not terribly complicated.  You can do it yourself.  Maine’s Registry of Deeds provides suggested wording on their website, and anyone can use this format to prepare an updated deed, have it notarized, and submit it themselves.

As always, reach out to your advisor with questions on this or any other way to make your estate planning process more simple!