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If you are working on your estate planning and wondering what options you have for passing your house to your children or another loved one, you may want to consider whether a transfer on death deed (TODD) is right for your situation.

Virginia law allows you to pass real estate to another person without going through probate by using a special deed that only goes into effect upon your death. Understanding what a TODD does and does not do may help you decide if a TODD is the right estate planning tool for you.

What a TODD does:

  1. Transfer your real estate to one or more beneficiaries after you die without going through probate court
  2. Allow you to keep control of the property while you are still alive
  3. Allows you to change your mind and revoke the TODD before your death using one of several documents
  4. Transfers the property in equal interests to multiple beneficiaries, with no right of survivorship
  5. Transfers upon the death of the last joint owner to die, if jointly owned by more than one person

What a TODD does not do:

  1. Give any interest in the property to the beneficiary before you die.
  2. Affect any lien or mortgage on the property at the time of your death, including public assistance liens.
  3. Keep you from being eligible for public assistance.
  4. Keep you from selling the property before your death.
  5. Transfer the interest of a joint tenant, unless that joint tenant also signs the deed
  6. Transfer the interest if your beneficiary dies before you

If you decide a TODD is the right option for you, here are a few requirements to keep in mind to make sure your TODD is effective:

  • A TODD must follow the general requirements of inter vivos deeds in Virginia.
  • It must specify that it takes effect upon your death.
  • You must record it in your jurisdiction before your death.
  • You do not need to pay recording tax, unless your beneficiary is paying you for the transfer.
  • All joint owners must sign the TODD.

TODDs can be great estate planning tools, especially for smaller estates where your home is your largest asset. They do have limitations, however, and may not meet your goals. Keep in mind that if you transfer the property to more than one person, those people must agree on how to manage the property. You should research all of your options before deciding on the best tool for transferring your real estate upon your death.