A well drafted and comprehensive estate plan typically incorporates a number of strategies into the plan and makes use of various different tools and techniques in an effort to accomplish the numerous estate planning goals the plan creator may have. One common estate planning goal is probate avoidance because assets that are required to pass through the probate process are often held up an unavailable for weeks, even months, after the decedent’s death. One strategy that can help with probate avoidance is to create “Payable on Death” or “Transfer on Death” ( POD or TOD ) accounts.
A POD account is simply a type of account designation for financial accounts such as your bank account. When you designate an account as a POD account you name a beneficiary whom you wish to become the owner of the account (and all assets held in the account) in the event of your death. Unlike joint ownership, a POD account designation does not give the beneficiary any rights to, or interest in, the assets in the account while you are alive. Instead, when you die the beneficiary automatically becomes the owner of the account without the need for the account to go through probate. This provides your beneficiary with immediate access to the funds held in the account. Providing immediate access can be important if you are leaving behind a spouse and/or children who depend on you and your income for support. Leaving behind an account with $500,000 in it does your beneficiary no good if he/she cannot access the funds.
A TOD account is essentially the same as a POD account except that the TOD designation is more commonly used for securities and other types of assets. The purpose and function of a TOD account, however, is the same as a POD account.
Generally, all you need to do to change an account designation to a POD or TOD account is to check with the financial institution and request a change of account designation form. You then fill out the form and designate your beneficiary. Be sure to let your beneficiary know that the account is s TOD account so that he or she will know to claim the account should something happen to you.
If you have additional questions or concerns about TOD/POD accounts, or estate planning in general, contact the experienced South Carolina estate planning attorneys at Kuhn & Kuhn Law Firm by calling 843-577-3700 to schedule your appointment.