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Q: How do you change a beneficiary on a Transfer on Death deed? Can I get a form from the recorder’s office, or should I call the attorney?

A: I’m a big advocate of Transfer on Death deeds. TOD deeds allow you to add a beneficiary to real estate, not unlike designating someone as a Payable on Death beneficiary on a bank account or CD. TOD deeds offer an alternative to a trust for small estates. I use TOD deeds in a lot of my estate plans.

One of the downsides to TOD deeds occurs when the grantor changes her mind.

If you name your child as POD beneficiary on your bank account and you change your mind, there is a pretty easy solution. To change the beneficiary on a bank account, you visit your bank and sit down with one of the nice people behind a desk.

The bank’s customer service representative will print out a form for your signature. It then goes to their operations department, and then the POD beneficiary designation disappears. Easy peasy.

To modify or withdraw a beneficiary designation on a TOD deed isn’t as easy as dealing with a POD designation on a bank account. Because the beneficiary designation was created in a deed that was recorded, something has to be recorded to make the necessary change.

Under certain circumstances, an affidavit can be recorded to make changes to a TOD deed. However, I’m not a big advocate of modifying TOD deeds using an affidavit. I prefer preparing and recording a new deed. Not all attorneys agree with me on this, but it’s the method that I use.

Whatever method that you chose to modify or revoke a recorded TOD deed, it’s best left to an attorney. Unfortunately, the recorder’s office is not going to provide or prepare a form for you. The recorder’s job is to record documents, not prepare them for you.

Remember that you are messing with the title to your home so it’s best left to a professional. Deeds are not a do-it-yourself project. If you do it wrong, bad things can happen, so rely on a professional. Plus, if they do it wrong, you’ve got someone you can yell at.

Christopher W. Yugo is an attorney in Crown Point. Chris’ Estate Planning Article appears online every Sunday at www.nwi.com. Address questions to Chris in care of The Times, 601 W. 45th Ave., Munster, IN 46321 or to Chrisyugolaw@gmail.com. Chris’ information is meant to be general in nature. Specific legal, tax, or insurance questions should be referred to your attorney, accountant, or estate-planning specialist.

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