Avoiding Probate in New York

New York estate owners can avoid probate with stipulation of transfer-on-death (“TOD”) designation of assets within their will or estate testamentary documents. The state presently prohibits TOD deeds for real estate and automobile registration transfer, yet properties held in joint tenancy, bank accounts, and other cash convertible assets like bonds and securities are eligible for payable-on-death (“POD”) or transfer at time of an estate owner’s death.  


Designation of POD bank accounts

The law allows for POD designation of estate owner bank accounts, including certificates of

deposit as part of your will, estate, or trust. New York statute provides that an estate’s decedent retains all rights to an account until death. Transfer of those assets to a POD beneficiary occurs at that time. A beneficiary can then claim the account directly from the bank without undergoing probate review by a court.


Registration of TOD Securities

New York allows for TOD registration of securities assets. A will, estate, or trust holding stocks and bonds, or a brokerage account comprised of securities is eligible for TOD registration. Named beneficiaries inherit brokerage accounts and securities assets automatically at time of a decedent’s death. Assets from those accounts are transferred directly to beneficiaries without probate court proceeding under New York law.


Survivorship and Joint-tenancy Rights

Real property held in joint-tenancy or as part of a spouse’s marital rights is also transferred automatically at time of a decedent’s death. Unlike some states, New York prohibits TOD real estate deed transfers. Rules of survivorship provide that full interest of a decedent go to the surviving co-tenant(s). Spouses can also be “tenants in common” with the same title rights as joint tenants. Joint tenancy is also protected from probate. Joint-tenancy ownership determines the rightful recipient of a property upon the death of the last owner. Owning property as joint tenants mean that the last surviving owner receives the property. The final deceased owner has the legal right to designate named beneficiaries of a property asset formerly held in joint-tenancy. Probate court proceeding are often required in such case.


Benefits of Forming a Living Trust

Formation of a living trust protects the named beneficiaries of an estate from probate later. By designating a trustee of a trust and establishing a will or estate testamentary document naming beneficiaries for future transfer ownership of real and other property, distribution of those assets will be controlled by the terms and conditions of the trust making is easier for your trustee to administer the estate outside of a probate court proceeding.


New York Estate Law Firm

The transfer of designated estate assets to heirs and beneficiaries at time of a decedent’s death may be subject to a complicated and lengthy probate proceeding without the assistance of an estate planning attorney. Ettinger Law Firm is a licensed New York attorney practice specializing in estate planning and probate litigation. Contact Ettinger Law Firm to schedule a consultation regarding an estate law matter.  

See Related Blog Posts

Common Ways to Transfer Property After Death

Owning Property Outside of a Trust Can Be Dangerous


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