By Darlynn Morgan, Orange County Probate Lawyer

For Orange County residents seeking to avoid probate on certain assets such as their stocks, bonds and other assets in brokerage accounts, Transfer on Death Agreements (TOD’s) can be a very useful and convenient estate planning tool.

Essentially, Transfer on Death Agreements allow you to pass ownership of your accounts directly to a beneficiary of your choosing when death occurs.  Without such designations, each account would have to go through the probate court before it can be distributed to your desired heirs.

Of course many people wish to avoid involvement with the Orange County probate court simply because it could take a year or longer before the funds actually reach your desired beneficiaries.  The value of your assets may also be reduced by as much as 5%, as your heirs will be responsible to pay mandatory attorney and court fees.

Finally, one of the greatest drawbacks of probate is that the value of such assets will be revealed during the process and made public for the whole world to see. This aspect of probate is especially troublesome for people who do not want every scam-artist or busybody in town knowing what their heirs stand to inherit upon their passing.

Yet it is important to remember that while TOD agreements will help you avoid probate on some of your assets, it won’t help you avoid probate on the rest of your personal effects such as jewelry, collections, family heirlooms, the contents of your home, if the total value exceeds certain limits.

Nor will TOD agreements help you minimize the amount of estate taxes your family might have to pay upon your passing or protect your assets if incapacity and not death occurs.

That’s why it’s so important you speak with an estate planning attorney before making any decisions about your financial or legal affairs.  While a TOD is indeed a useful estate planning tool that can help you avoid probate, it may not be the best – or the only tool your family needs to ensure they are protected should something unexpectedly happen to you.

Fortunately, we’ve made the process of meeting with an Orange County probate lawyer easier than ever by offering free Family Wealth Planning Sessions (normally $750) to anyone that takes the time to read this informational article.  However, these sessions are limited to 10 per month, so call (949) 260-1400 to reserve your spot today.