Wyoming Transfer on Death Deeds

Everything you need to know about transfer on death (TOD) deeds in Wyoming.

A transfer on death (TOD) deed is like a regular deed you might use to transfer your Wyoming real estate, but with a crucial difference: It doesn't take effect until your death. At your death, the real estate goes automatically to the person you named to inherit it (your "beneficiary"), without the need for probate court proceedings. (Wyo. Stat. §§ 2-18-101 and following.)

You must sign the deed and get your signature notarized, and then record (file) the deed with the county clerk's office before your death. Otherwise, it won't be valid.

How the TOD Deed Works

The beneficiary's rights. The person you name in the deed to inherit the property doesn't have any legal right to it until your death—or, if you own the property as "joint tenants" or "tenants by the entirety" with someone else, until the last surviving owner dies. (More on this below.) The beneficiary doesn't sign the deed, but it's a good idea to let the beneficiary know you've recorded it. Otherwise, he or she might not know about it, even after your death.

Earlier wills or TOD deeds. If you have made a will or previous TOD deed that leaves the property to someone, your new TOD deed will override it.

Your rights. You keep complete ownership of, and control over, the real estate while you're alive. You pay the taxes on it, and it's not protected from your creditors. You can sell it, give it away, or mortgage it. Because you're not making a gift of the property, there's no federal gift tax.

Medicaid. Creating a TOD deed won't affect whether or not you are eligible for Medicaid. Because you own the property and are not actually giving it away during your lifetime, a TOD deed won't help you "spend down" your assets to help you qualify for Medicaid. Beware, though, that if you do end up receiving Medicaid benefits—for example, to pay for nursing home care—your home might be liable for reimbursement of Medicaid expenditures. If you have questions, consult a local attorney.

Revoking the deed. If you later change your mind about who you want to inherit the property, you are not locked in. You have two options: (1) sign and record a revocation or (2) record another TOD deed, leaving the property to someone else. You cannot use your will to revoke or override a TOD deed.

How ownership is transferred. To get title to the property after your death, the beneficiary must record a sworn statement (affidavit) and an accompanying certificate of clearance (issued by the Wyoming department of health) in the county clerk's office. No probate is necessary.

Special Rules for Co-Owned Property

If you own the property with someone else, how to proceed depends on how you and the other co-owners hold title to the property. If you don't know how you hold title, start by looking at the deed that transferred the property to you. It might say, for example, "to Ellen Bauman and Edward M. Bauman, as joint tenants," or "to Jonathan G. Costa and Sandra L. White, as tenants in common."

There are three common ways to co-own property in Wyoming:

Joint tenancy (also called "joint tenancy with right of survivorship"). If you co-own real estate as joint tenants with right of survivorship, when one co-owner dies, that co-owner's share of the property will automatically go to the surviving co-owner(s). You can make a TOD deed together with the other joint tenant(s) or you can make one on your own, but it's important to understand the difference.

When you make a TOD deed together with the other joint tenant(s), you are naming someone to receive the property after all of the joint tenants have died.

Example: Claire and Kendra co-own their home as joint tenants. They make a TOD deed together and name Oscar as the beneficiary. When Claire dies, Claire's half of the home goes to Kendra, who becomes the sole owner of the entire home. When Kendra dies, the home goes to Oscar under the TOD deed.

If you make a TOD deed on your own, without the other joint tenants, the deed will be effective only if you are the last surviving owner of the property. If you die first, the surviving co-owner(s) will own the property, and the TOD deed won't have any effect.

Tenancy in common. If your deed doesn't state how you own the property, you and your co-owners are presumed to own it as tenants in common, unless you've agreed otherwise in writing. If you own your property as a tenant in common, it's best to create a TOD deed on your own (without the other tenants in common). That TOD deed will transfer only your share of the property to the TOD beneficiary when you die.

Example: Raymond and Jack, who are brothers, own a house together as tenants in common. Raymond signs a TOD deed that leaves his half-interest to his daughter. At Raymond's death, his daughter will become a tenant in common with Jack.

Tenancy by the entirety. This form of co-ownership is available only to married couples; when one spouse dies, the survivor automatically owns the entire property. If you and your spouse hold real estate as tenants by the entirety, you both must sign the deed, which will take effect only after both spouses have died. If you sign a TOD deed alone, it will have no effect.

If you're not sure how you co-own the property or whether or not your spouse has any rights to it, consult a lawyer. While the guidance here fits most situations, if you have a complicated situation or more complex aims, you should turn to a lawyer for a more tailored solution.

Revoking a jointly made deed. If you sign a TOD deed with a co-owner, the effect of revocation depends on how you co-own the property and who does the revoking.

If you co-own the property as joint tenants and/or with "right of survivorship," your co-owner will automatically own the entire property upon your death (and vice versa). So:

  • Revoking the deed by yourself has no effect unless you are the last surviving co-owner.
  • While you are both alive, you and your co-owner can revoke the deed together at any time.

If you co-own the property as tenants in common, we do not suggest making a TOD deed with your co-owner in the first place (see above). But if you did, here is how revocation would work:

  • Revoking the deed by yourself will affect only your interest in the property. The deed would no longer pass your share of the property, but it would still pass the co-owner's share of the property to the TOD beneficiary.
  • If you both revoke the deed, it will be entirely revoked.

Note on trust property. If you hold real estate in a trust, you probably won't need to use a TOD deed, because trust property doesn't need to go through probate anyway. If for some reason you want to use a TOD deed instead, you'll probably need to transfer the property out of the trust first. Talk to a lawyer about your estate plan.

Naming Beneficiaries

You can name anyone you please to inherit your real estate—a person, more than one person, or an organization such as a favorite charity. But if you want to name more than one person, or a minor, there are some issues you should consider.

More than one beneficiary. Before you name multiple beneficiaries on your transfer on death deed, make sure you consider 1) how the co-beneficiaries will hold title to the property after you die, 2) what will happen if one of the co-beneficiaries dies before you do, and 3) how the beneficiaries will feel about co-owning the property.

As to the first issue, when you make WillMaker's transfer on death deed for Wyoming, your property will transfer to your beneficiaries in equal shares with no right of survivorship. This is the default under Wyoming law. In other words, your beneficiaries will own your property as tenants in common and each beneficiary will be free to leave his or her share to someone else or to sell that share of the property.

Example: You name Tim, Stephanie, and Rebekah as your TOD beneficiaries. After you die, they will own the property as tenants in common. Tim leaves his one-third share of the property to his son Cameron in his will. Stephanie sells her one-third share of the property to Anya. After Tim dies, Cameron, Anya, and Rebekah own the property.

As to the second issue (what happens if a co-beneficiary dies before you do), WillMaker asks you to decide:

Choice 1: If a beneficiary dies before you do, that beneficiary's share of the property goes to the remaining beneficiary or beneficiaries in equal shares.

Example: If you name Abigail, Bennett, and Carmen as your beneficiaries and Bennett dies before you do, Bennett's share of the property will go to Abigail and Carmen. Abigail and Carmen will each receive half of the property.

If you make this choice, your deed will say, "If a grantee beneficiary predeceases the owner, the conveyance to that grantee beneficiary shall become void."

Choice 2: If a beneficiary dies before you do, that beneficiary's share of the property will go to the deceased beneficiary's estate.

Example: If you name your children Abigail, Bennett, and Carmen as your beneficiaries and Bennett dies before you do, Bennett's share of the property would go to Bennett's estate—that is, to the person or people named in Bennett's will or, if Bennett has no will, to Bennett's heirs (for example, Bennett's children) as determined by the intestacy laws of Bennett's state.

If you make this choice, your deed will say, "If a grantee beneficiary predeceases the owner, the conveyance to that grantee beneficiary shall become part of the estate of the grantee beneficiary."

If you have a more complex situation than these choices are able to accommodate, or if two of your beneficiaries are married to each other, consult a lawyer.

Finally, think carefully about how your beneficiaries will feel about owning the property together. Co-ownership is cumbersome and often causes tension. For example, one co-owner could force a sale of the property even if the other co-owners didn't want to sell.

Children under 18. Think twice about naming a child under age 18 as a beneficiary. A child can take title to the property, but an adult will need to manage it.

When making a TOD deed with WillMaker, you can name an adult "custodian" under the Wyoming Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) to manage the property. Under Wyoming's UTMA, the beneficiary becomes the outright owner of the property at a specified age between 21 and 30.

You may have other options for naming an adult property manager, including:

  • using your will to name a property guardian who will take care of any property you leave to your own young children, including property transferred by this deed, and
  • setting up a trust for a child and naming the trust as the TOD beneficiary.

For more information, see Naming a Minor Beneficiary for Transfer on Death Deeds. For help setting up a property management method, consult a qualified estate planning lawyer.

Sample Legal Descriptions

Several kinds of legal descriptions are used in Wyoming. Just copy what's on the previous deed that transferred the property to you. Here are three examples:

  • "Lot 19, Pleasant Valley Subdivision, Femont County, Wyoming, as contained in the Plat recorded September 4, 1974 in Drawer 3, Page 55."
  • "Lot 5, Block 3, Highland Park Addition to the City of Riverton, Fremont County, Wyoming."
  • "A parcel of land in the SW¼NW¼, Section 23, T.IN., R.4E., W.R.M., Fremont County, Wyoming described as follows: Commencing at the Northwest corner of the SW¼NW¼; thence 30 feet East along the North boundary of the SW¼NW¼, Section 23, to the point of beginning of this description; thence continuing East along the North boundary of the SW¼NW¼, Section 23, a distance of 317.5 feet; thence South 102.47 feet; thence West 317.5 feet; thence South 104.37 feet; thence West 317.5 feet; thence North 102.47 feet along the East boundary of the County Road Right-of-Way line to the point of beginning of this description, containing 1.0 acres more or less."

­If the legal description is too long to safely type out (they can even run several pages long), simply photocopy or scan and print it, and attach it to the transfer on death deed as "Exhibit A."

If You Need Legal Advice

Accurate, plain-English legal information can help many people create useful legal documents. But general information is never a substitute for personalized advice from a knowledgeable lawyer. If you want professional advice about the best way to craft or use legal documents in your particular circumstances, consult an attorney licensed to practice in Wyoming.