Introductory Thoughts and Tips for Your Estate Plan

written by Mark Lamb

Most people are aware of the need to plan for their estate, and any age is appropriate to begin thinking about an estate plan. Many people assume a trust is a required method of passing assets from an owner to the beneficiaries, but there are other options.


Without some basic documents, the court will decide everything in the process known as probate. This can be a lengthy, costly and public process.

In some cases, probate can be avoided in an uncomplicated way. Although trusts can offer advantages, assets can be transferred by transfer on death (TOD) or payable on death (POD). These designations are sometimes the most appropriate probate avoidance device. If assets to be transferred at the time of death are fairly simple and the number of beneficiaries is small, TOD or POD designations may be the perfect probate avoidance plan.

Difficulties can occur, however, when transferred assets are complex, when the number of beneficiaries is large, or when the beneficiaries don’t get along. In these cases, it is better to utilize a fiduciary, such as a trustee under a trust, or a personal representative under a will to administer the distribution of assets.

Although a will or trust can pass all assets owned at the time of death, there is no single document available to distribute all assets by TOD or POD designation.

Beneficiary Deeds

For real estate, a real estate deed using specific language, called a Beneficiary Deed, must be prepared, signed and recorded. For a vehicle, the appropriate language must appear on the vehicle title issued by the state. This action can be taken care of at your local Department of Motor Vehicles. For bank accounts, certificates of deposit, and investment accounts, contact the financial institution where the accounts are located and follow their instructions.

One thing to keep in mind if you use TOD or POD designations: you continue to personally own the assets until your death. The TOD or POD beneficiaries have no ownership of the assets until your death.

These are some introductory tips related to estate planning and are not intended to be considered legal advice. As with any tax, financial or estate planning, each case is unique and it is important to consult a professional to ensure an appropriate plan is considered. Contact us with any questions regarding estate planning 417-881-0145.

Please note this article merely highlights some of the key reasons of the importance of estate planning. In order to make this article understandable and to keep it to a reasonable length, the reasons and explanations have been simplified in some cases.


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