Simply scribbling your beneficiary's name on the deed to your house won't make her the house's co-owner. If you want to change or add names on a deed, you have to make out a new deed to record the change of ownership. Making your beneficiary the co-owner is one way to do it, but doing so has many drawbacks. A simpler way to transfer title is to draw up a beneficiary or transfer-on-death (TOD) deed that transfers the title as soon as you die.
Buy a beneficiary deed from a legal-forms store in your state or a website that sells forms. Each state sets its own requirements for deeds — the format, language, and notarization requirements — and not following the rules will invalidate the deed. Research state law to find out any other requirements for TOD deeds, such as whether you need a witness present when you sign it.
Write the legal description of the property in the deed. The street address alone isn't enough: You have to use the platting or boundaries recorded in the county files to mark the exact location of the property. The easiest way to do this is to look at your own deed for the property and copy the description, exactly, onto the TOD deed.
Name the beneficiary who inherits the property. It's important to write your heir's name down rather than "my son" or "my granddaughter" — the lack of a specific name could invalidate the deed or confuse the executor who manages your estate. It's okay to convey title to more than one person in a TOD deed, but only if you identify each beneficiary by name.
Sign the deed and have it notarized (and witnessed if necessary). Record the deed at your local county office to make it legal. If you do everything right, when you die the title will transfer to your beneficiary without going through probate.
- If you co-own the house as a joint tenancy with a right of survivorship or tenancy by the entireties, your share passes automatically to your co-owner when you die. You don't have to do anything to make that happen.
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.