The Flinchum File
Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions

Title Troubles

02/19/2020

Probate has earned a bad reputation.  When a person dies with assets that become part of their “estate”, the probate court steps in, making sure the assets are distributed to the right person.  It is a necessary public service but an annoying public service.  It is slow, paper-intensive, and costly.  The good news is that it is easily avoided.

If your trust owns the asset, it can avoid probate.  If your asset is jointly titled with someone else, who is still alive, it avoids probate.  If your asset is titled Payable-on-Death (POD) or Transfer-on-Death (TOD), it avoids probate, assuming that person is still alive. 

The most annoying part of settling a person’s estate is finding some minor over-looked asset that was improperly owned or titled long ago.  That one asset then has to go thru probate, slowing the process.  The most common over-looked asset is a checking account or certificate of deposit somewhere.  A recent finding was a individually-titled funeral plot in another state from 50 years ago.  Thinking about the title of ALL assets deserves more than a flippant response.

If your trust owns the asset, it can avoid probate.  If your asset is jointly titled with someone else, it avoids probate.  If your asset is Payable-on-Death (POD) or Transfer-on-Death (TOD), it avoids probate. 

It has been my experience that small banks without a trust department are simply too scared of trusts.  For those banks, POD or TOD is much easier to use.

If your trust owns the asset, it can avoid probate.  If your asset is jointly titled with someone else, it avoids probate.  If your asset is Payable-on-Death (POD) or Transfer-on-Death (TOD), it avoids probate. 

From the time we were kids, we learned that titles are not important.  That may be true for people, but it is NOT true for your assets!

Checking the titles on ALL your assets now is a minor annoyance, compared to the big annoyance of your heirs later.

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