At the Jacobson Law Firm, PC we do a lot of estate planning and probate. Probate costs money. We tell all of our estate planning clients that if there's a way to designate a beneficiary on a financial account or other property instead of passing it under a will, they should strongly consider that because it saves both money and time. My March 16, 2018 blog on a way for married people in Texas to transfer title to a motor vehicle without going through probate when one spouse dies generated a number of comments, including one just today from my college roommate's wife, who asked if they should use the front of the title to make the "Joint Tenants With Right Of Survivorship" election, because only her husband's name was on the title. She said the DMV had mentioned another form that lets you designate a beneficiary for your automobile without having to go through probate (much like the JTWROS election). It looks like a great way to avoid having to use the probate process to transfer title if, say, you want one of your kids to inherit the car and not have to wait for the probate process to be completed in order to get the car in the child's name.
Behold, the Form VTR-121!
Okay, you have to squint a little, and it's just a screen grab of part of the form, but here's the link to download one of your very own. This won't work for every situation, so be sure to read the form and instructions carefully and contact the DMV if you have questions. Also, remember, this blog is legal information, not legal advice: your particular circumstances may not make this the best choice for you, so I recommend you talk with an experienced estate planning lawyer before making any decision about who gets your stuff when you die.
I usually draft these blogs from scratch, but I ran across a very helpful link published by the Real Estate, Probate and Trust Law (REPTL) Section of the State Bar of Texas that answers many of the questions my clients ask about how, when and why to pass title to real estate. I've been a member of the section for years but had never seen this resource before, so I thought I'd pass it on: Pay no attention to the fact it uses the term, "conveyancing" which has an extra and unnecessary syllable ("conveying" works just as well) - hey, they're lawyers.
I want to draw your attention to one particular type of deed: the Transfer on Death Deed, or TODD. This is a way for people whose estate consists of just real estate (usually a residence) and a few personal items to potentially avoid probate by conveying the property, but having the deed not take effect until they die. There's more to it
(it's revocable, for one, which is potentially a good thing), but it's worth a look.