Avoiding probate in North Carolina is a very real concern for people who want to make sure certain assets such as stocks, bonds, brokerage, and bank accounts automatically pass to their heirs upon their death.
In such a scenario, Transfer on Death Agreements (also known as TODs) can be a very useful and convenient estate planning tool for making sure your loved ones are financially taken care of in your absence.
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.
Yet you may be wondering, “What’s wrong with going through North Carolina probate, and why bother with tools such as TODs to avoid it?”
Well for starters, many people wish to avoid probate courts simply because it could take a year or longer before the inheritance you leave actually reach your desired beneficiaries. This is problematic for families who desperately need the assets to pay for burial expenses, outstanding medical bills, mortgage payments, and general living expenses.
Not to mention, the value of your assets passing through probate may be reduced by as much as 3% to 8%, due to probate-related expenses such as executor commissions, attorney fees, court fees, bond premiums, and so on.
Finally, one of the greatest drawbacks of probate is that the value of your assets will be made public for the whole world to see. This aspect of North Carolina 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.
However, it is important to remember that while TOD agreements will help you avoid probate for 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, etc.
TOD agreements also will not protect your assets in the event of your disability or incapacity. Nor will TOD agreements help you minimize the amount of estate taxes your family might have to pay upon your passing.
For these reasons, it’s so important that you speak with a North Carolina probate 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, and it probably isn’t the only tool your family needs to ensure they are protected should something happen to you.
Are you ready to put a comprehensive estate plan in place? To get started, register for an upcoming seminar or call our office ta 919-443-3035 to schedule a Vision Meeting to discuss your planning goals.