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House Passes Gruenberg Bill to Simplify Property Transfers

“Transfer on Death” deeds cut out costly and cumbersome legal probate process

JUNEAU – Today, the Alaska state House of Representatives voted unanimously to allow Alaskans an inexpensive and efficient way to transfer property upon a person’s death without going through the long and cumbersome court probate process.

“The last thing a grieving family wants to deal with is a drawn out court process just to honor the wishes of their deceased loved one,” said Representative Max Gruenberg (D-Anchorage), the sponsor of the legislation. “This legislation allows Alaskans to transfer property without expensive legal counsel by pre-arranging property transfers so their loved ones can work through the grieving process without the burden of unnecessary legal proceedings.”

Under the legislation (HB60), property passes by means of a recorded “transfer on death” (TOD) deed. Property owners can create the TOD deed in advance. The transfer then records upon the death of the property owner, eliminating the probate process for that property.

This legislation simplifies the process of distributing assets after death for Alaskans who have smaller estates. Common examples of non-probate transfers of personal property to beneficiaries include beneficiary designations in life insurance policies and pension plans, registration of securities in “transfer on death” forms, and “payable on death” bank accounts. 

“Transfer on Death deeds are a new, affordable, and highly flexible tool, and could save Alaska residents hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and probate expenses,” said Gruenberg.

In 1989, Missouri became the first state to allow non-probate transfers of real property. By 2002, five states allowed such transfers at death, and today, twenty-three states and the District of Columbia permit TOD deeds. Four states, including Alaska, have URPTODA bills under consideration for the 2014 legislative session.

The bill would not prevent estate planners from using any of the other methods now available when appropriate.

HB 60 now goes to the Alaska State Senate for consideration.

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