WillMaker's Transfer on Death Deed

You can use a transfer on death deed (TOD deed) to name a beneficiary for real estate, like your home. TOD deeds keep property out of probate and are relatively simple to make and maintain. Before your death, you can revoke the deed (and make a new one if you like) at any time.

Why Use a Transfer on Death Deed

The most common estate planning tools for transferring real estate are wills and living trusts. TOD deeds have certain advantages over both, but they aren't the right tool for everybody.

Compared to wills, TOD deeds have the huge benefit of keeping your home out of probate. This can be especially useful if your home is the one item that will make probate costly and time-consuming for your family. In that situation, having a will and a TOD deed is a useful combination.

However, if you expect to die with a lot of debt, it might be best to have the property go through probate so that the court can work out who gets what. In that case, using a will to pass your property may make the most sense.

Compared to living trusts, TOD deeds are much more affordable and easy to make, particularly because with a TOD deed, you don't have to retitle the property. It's just a simple form that you sign, have notarized, and then record with your county land records office.

TOD deeds can be beneficial compared to living trusts if your home is the only item you want to keep out of probate. If the rest of your estate won't go through probate or is modest enough to use simplified probate proceedings, then it makes sense to use a TOD deed to avoid probate for that one piece of property.

On the other hand, in some circumstances, a living trust is a better choice. For example, consider using a living trust if:

  • you have more than just real estate to keep out of probate
  • you have a complex beneficiary plan (like many beneficiaries or many levels of alternate beneficiaries), or
  • you need to plan for incapacity.

Learn more about different ways to avoid probate.

Transfer on Death Deeds are State-Specific

Not all states have passed laws that allow transfer on death deeds. And even among the states that do allow TOD deeds, the rules about what must be included with the deed vary. For example, states have different requirements about whether:

  • more than one owner can make a deed
  • a deed must show a beneficiary's marital status, relationship to the grantor, or address
  • you can name alternate beneficiaries (who will receive the property if your primary beneficiary dies before you) in the deed, and
  • the deed must adhere to certain margin requirements.

So you must make the correct TOD deed for the state in which the property is located. If the property is in California, you must use California's TOD deed. If the property is in Virginia, you must use Virginia's TOD deed, and so on.

WillMaker's Transfer on Death Deed

WillMaker & Trust 2022 includes transfer on death deeds for most states that allow them. As additional states pass laws that permit transfer on death deeds, we will add them to the program.

As with all WillMaker documents, the program walks you through each step of making a transfer on death deed, explaining your choices along the way. The deed also prints with detailed instructions about how to finalize your document and record (file) it at the county land records office.

Learn more about planning your estate with WillMaker.

Learn more about transfer on death deeds.