One of the things we’re going to talk about today is a basic estate planning tip. Oftentimes people ask us what happens to their accounts when they die. A lot of times, they’re trying to avoid the probate process. The probate process can be somewhat inefficient. So let’s talk today about it. Let’s talk about what happens when an account owner dies? What happens to their account.
Standard Individual Accounts
If a person has an individual account. What happens when they die? we have to open an estate account. In order to do that, we will need:
- A tax ID number for the Estate (normally the attorney applies for it)
- A copy of the owner’s death certificate,
- And a court-certified letter of testamentary. Sometime this is called a court appointment, which names the executor of the estate.
When we do that the original account is frozen. We can’t do any transactions in that account, and we can’t send out any money.
Once we get all the paperwork together, the assets transfer into the estate account.
How long does it take to transfer an estate account to the beneficiaries?
That’s completely up to the executor. We need a letter signed by them to distribute those assets from the estate account. It can be pretty quick. They can also leave it there for an extended period of time. It’s completely up to them and how quickly they want to get that settled.
Some take as few as 30 days. Some take six months or more.
Transfer on Death Provisions
One thing you can do to improve the efficiency of this process is to use a transfer on death registration. What do we need to do to create a TOD account? And, what happens when we have a TOD provision on the account? What happens when the original owner passes away?
The form that the original owner would need to sign is actually called a non-probate TOD agreement. That form names beneficiaries for that individual account. And it specifies how they want the assets in that individual account to be divided.
- the name of the beneficiary,
- the social security number and date of birth.
- We also need the percentage of the assets that will go to each of them.
When the owner passes, the account is frozen. Individual accounts are opened for each beneficiary. We need a copy of the death certificate and a form called a transfer on death affidavit. Each beneficiary signs this form. This allows them to accept the assets from the decedent’s account.
Once we get the forms, the assets can transfer in two to three days.
It’s a lot more efficient than having an estate account. Plus, you don’t have to go through a lot of the probate stuff. It’s not going to completely avoid probate, there still may be some loose ends. But, it’s going to be a whole lot more efficient.
Once those accounts are open, each beneficiary has the option to do whatever they wish. They can liquidate it. They can continue the relationship with our firm. Or they can transfer it to another firm. It’s a much faster and more efficient way to get assets from the original owner to their heirs.
Can you add TOD provisions to a joint account?
On a joint account, when the first owner dies all the assets immediately go to the surviving owner. When the second owner dies, you would do it the same as if it was an individual account,
Typically, it goes to the surviving spouse (most of the time). In those cases, the TOD provision on a joint account comes into play if there’s a simultaneous death. Once the account goes to the survivor, they have to do the TOD paperwork all over again.
IRA’s, Retirement Plans, and Insurance Contracts
These provisions don’t apply to IRAs or retirement plans. IRAs and retirement plans have their own beneficiary designations. They are non-probate assets. It also doesn’t apply to insurance contracts like annuities or life insurance. Those also are non-probate assets that have beneficiary designations. It only applies to individual and joint accounts.
Still need a will…
This does not replace the need to have a will or a trust. You should involve your estate planning attorney (if you have one). They may have other ideas that are better suited for you.
This is a simple and easy way for you to do some basic estate planning. And it costs nothing.