Estate planning is a plan for how you will acquire property, use it, conserve it, and perhaps most importantly, how it will be transferred upon your death. It is possible to transfer titles to real estate or vehicles, upon the death of the owner, by a process similar to payable-on-death bank accounts.

The owner of real estate or a vehicle may record a Transfer on Death Deed to real estate which specifies a beneficiary of the title upon the death of the owner.

This is a special deed created for the purpose of designating a beneficiary upon death. It should be filled out with the Register of Deeds in the county where the real estate is located. There is a small fee for recording the deed. An attorney can help with this. You will need the full legal description of your real estate.

Similarly, the owner of a motor vehicle may record a title transfer with the Tag Department designating a beneficiary upon the death of the title holder. The transfer can be recorded by taking the title to the County Court house in the owner’s county of residence and paying a fee. This can be easily done when the annual car registration paid.

Designating a beneficiary on death allows the property to pass to the ownership of the beneficiary without involvement of Probate Court, but the ownership change doesn’t take effect until the present owner dies. That means the present owner can change his or her mind and change the beneficiary (ies) without anyone else consenting. It also means that the present owner can sell or trade the property of give it away to someone else before death without needing any other person’s permission.

Joint Tenancy does avoid probate, because title to the property automatically passes to the surviving joint tenants upon your death.

Adding a joint tenant to property makes that joint tenant an owner of the property; therefore, you should carefully consider the effects before using joint tenancy as an estate planning tool. If you add a name to the deed as a joint tenant, you will not be able to sell the property without that person’s permission.

Transfer of Property Before Death

You may decide to sell or give away your property for various reasons for extra income or to help your family avoid paying inheritance or estate taxes. You should carefully consider all your options when planning your Estate. Seek an attorney for sound legal advice for these complicated decisions.

Planning for the time when you can’t make decisions for yourself can be difficult but It also gives a sense of relief knowing your estate is in good order. Your heirs won’t have to make decisions on how to distribute your property to surviving relatives.

Information for this article was found from the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services Resource Guide.

McPherson County Council on Aging provides free legal advice through Kansas Legal Services. Call 620-241-4383 for an appointment.