A transfer on the death deed, a property deed, automatically transfers ownership of an asset when the owner dies. This is done to avoid the asset going through probate, which is a court-supervised process that distributes an individual’s assets upon death.

A TOD deed can be set up quickly and cheaply, in contrast to trusts which can serve similar purposes to protect your assets against probate.

Learn more about transfer on death and how to set it up.

What is a transfer on deed?

  • This type of deed will allow you to name a beneficiary, who will inherit the property after your death.

  • Even if you don’t reside in a state that permits TOD deeds but you own property in one, you may still be eligible to use a TODdeed. However, it is a good idea to consult a lawyer.

  • You can usually still use the property while you are alive. The rights of the current owner are not affected by a TOD deed. The beneficiary don’t have any access to the assets until the owner passes away.


  • You, and, depending on your location, the person to whom power-of-attorney was given , can modify or revoke the TOD document while you are alive.

  • You may be able, depending on your location, to name a second beneficiary to take over in the event that your first beneficiary passes away.

Which states accept transfer on death deeds

To-the-point deeds (TOD) are available in many U.S. States and the District of Columbia. These states permit TOD deeds. Ohio also has a TOD rule that is similar to a TOD Deed.


How can you create a transfer on your death deed?

TOD deeds usually include the following. However, specific requirements may differ by state.

  • The legal description of the property.

  • Names of the grantor (current owner/owners).

  • Names of intended beneficiaries.

  • State law provides language that enables a transfer to the “grantee beneficiary” in the event of the death or disability of an owner.

  • Witness signatures or notary provisions, depending on state requirements.

  • Register and file with your county’s property records (there might be a fee).

Some states offer free templates that can be used to transfer on your death deed. If you need professional advice or additional help to determine if this deed is right, you might consider hiring an estate planning lawyer.

The pros and cons of a death transfer


  • Avoid probate. To transfer property to its beneficiaries, property with a TOD document does not need to go through probate. Probate can be expensive and time-consuming in some states. This could lead to additional taxes on your assets.

  • Avoid filing federal gift tax paperwork. Gifts made while you are alive could be considered gifts by the IRS. This may mean that the gift giver must file a gift tax return. To avoid this, TOD deeds allow you to transfer the property after your death.

  • You must maintain your eligibility for Medicaid. If you have transferred property within the five years preceding applying for Medicaid, you may not be eligible for full Medicaid benefits. A TOD deed does not count as an immediate transfer of property, so it shouldn’t impact your eligibility.

  • It could prevent property being used to pay Medicaid benefits costs. U.S. federal law permits states to claim property of deceased persons to pay Medicaid costs for long-term care. In some states, however, property with TOD deeds might not be considered part of your estate and cannot be claimed by Medicaid.


  • Beneficiaries might receive equal shares of an asset. California is one example of a state where multiple beneficiaries cannot inherit equal property shares. In California, however, you can name a backup beneficiary. If you have multiple children, your estate plan might not be suitable for a TOD.

  • It is not available in all states. You will need an alternative method of estate planning if your state doesn’t allow TOD documents.

Alternatives to a Transfer on Death Deed

  1. Lady bird deeds. These deeds are also known as enhanced life estate deeds. They allow the owners to retain control of the property up to death. The property then automatically transfers to a beneficiary, without the need to go through probate. These deeds are only available in five states: Florida, Texas Michigan, Vermont, West Virginia, and West Virginia. They are frequently used to keep Medicaid eligibility.

  2. Revocable living trusts. These trusts allow assets to be removed from your estate and can avoid probate after your death. Although living trusts allow you to retain control of the asset throughout your life, they are more costly and difficult to set up than a will. Living wills and living trusts are different.

  3. Life deeds can be obtained in most states. They keep your property from probate, but you must obtain the permission of your beneficiaries to make any modifications.

  4. Wills. These may include property transfers, but they could be subject to probate following your death.