Arizona was the first state to recognize beneficiary deeds as a method of transferring property at death. At the time this article is written, Arizona has been joined by 16 other jurisdictions and the list is growing larger. Why is it so popular?
A beneficiary deed allows you to retain ownership of your property and to change your mind at any time during your lifetime. You may sell, rent, or mortgage the property without any complications. It is becoming a favored strategy in conjunction with living trusts because it avoids having to re-title the property, notify lenders and insurance companies, and to remove the property from trust if the property is refinanced.
The beneficiary deed must be recorded before the grantor’s death.
A beneficiary deed passes title at the moment of death to those persons named as grantees in the deed. All that is required is to record the death certificate and notify the lender, insurance company, county assessor, and homeowner’s association if there is one.
When creating a beneficiary deed, care must be taken to consider alternate or unexpected succession issues. You may name one or more beneficiaries who may take as tenants in common or with rights of survivor-ship. Grants to predeceased grantees may lapse or pass to the named grantee’s descendants depending on the language chosen. Each grantee will have an undivided interest in the property and an equal right to possession unless otherwise stated. You may create life estates or any other form of ownership recognized in Arizona.
Beneficiary deeds work well when the title will pass to a single individual or to a few individuals all of whom share a common vision of what to do with the property. If there are multiple grantees who will not work well together, then a beneficiary deed may create problems and a probate will probably be a better choice for the grantor.
When using a beneficiary deed, you must be watchful for changes in your family dynamics or structure that would make this simple method inappropriate. The deed may be revoked at any time.
If you think a beneficiary deed may work for you, contact me to discuss beneficiary deeds and your estate plan. I look forward to hearing from you.