“Ask Your Attorney” Column

Ask Your Attorney

Whether There Is A Simple Way To Transfer Real Estate At Death?

Dear Counselor: My widowed aunt has no children, and wants to leave her cottage up north to my brother and I, since we’ve been going up there since the 50’s. She doesn’t want to put our names on title now, but wants to know if there is a simple way to get it to us when she dies, and avoid the mess of probate?

Dear Client: People are constantly asking us about ways to transfer property at death, but avoid the time and expense associated with probate. Relatively recently, the Wisconsin legislature authorized the use of a Transfer on Death Deed (“TODD”). A TODD allows the owner of real estate to execute, and then record, a deed that names a beneficiary (or beneficiaries) who will succeed to ownership at the owner’s death. Because a TODD does NOT create any rights in the beneficiary UNTIL the death of the property owner, the owner can change their mind, or sell the property during their lifetime. However, if the owner still owns the property at death, the effect of the TODD will be to transfer the property to the person(s) named in the TODD without probate, at minimal cost. Not every situation is suited to use of a TODD so for a more expansive discussion on the topic, take a look at the article we’ve put on our website (www.wisclaw.com) including an example of what a TODD looks like. And then have your aunt give me a call if she’s interested.

John L. Maier, Jr.
Marcus Weden

Sweet & Maier, S.C., Attorneys
114 N. Church St.
Elkhorn, WI 53121