Free and Easy Estate Planning Tip

While many people think of a Will as the way to deal with property upon death. But, there are other easy and free ways to pass property on.  An easy and free way to pass on money is by naming pay on death beneficiary on bank and brokerage accounts. Banks and other financial institutions often allow you to designate a pay on death (POD) beneficiary for checking and savings accounts, CDs, mutual funds, IRAs, 401Ks, and stock/bond accounts.  This means that you can simply fill-out a form at your bank that designates people that get the money if you die. The POD does not require your heirs to put the money into probate for months, subjected to creditors and Court supervision. Instead, an heir just brings a death certificate to the bank turns over control of the money.

PODs don't require an attorney to draft.  Banks have their own simple forms. However, it is always advisable to talk with an attorney about how PODs and other estate planning techniques work in concert with other techniques. For instance, if you have three children and you would want the money split three ways, you would not want to name one child as POD beneficiary and assume that child will distribute to the other two. If that child has creditors, a predatory spouse, or just gets greedy, that plan can be disastrous. I very frequently recommend using PODs. However, I do it after understanding the client's property as a whole.

PODs are a simple and free estate planning technique.  No attorneys fees are charged. But, it is best to use them only after you have discussed your individual situation with an attorney.