When you’re thinking ahead about how to transfer your assets to your heirs after you are gone, you may have already considered using “payable-on-death” designations on your bank accounts. Once you die, those funds will automatically become the property of whomever you designate — without having to go through probate.
But what about your investments? If you’d like to find a way to make sure that more of your hard-earned assets get to your heirs (instead of going through probate and going to taxes), you may want to consider using Transfer on Death (TOD) registrations.
Unlike many other states, TOD designations cannot be used on real estate or motor vehicles in New Jersey, but the state does allow their use on both investment accounts and certificates of deposits. Using a TOD registration for these accounts not only has the effect of keeping them out of probate, it also keeps them from being subjected to an automatic “freeze” following your death.
That freeze keeps the funds from being accessed until your will is probated, making it difficult for your survivors to get the money they need for bills. It can also make it hard for your heirs to pay for things like your funeral expenses, if that’s how you intend for that bill to be paid.
There are some quirks in the law about how TODs work and what it means for the taxes on your estate, so make sure that you work with an experienced attorney as you craft your estate plans. You can also look for other legal means of protecting your assets from unnecessary taxation or hold-ups in probate at the same time.