Skip to main content

The Basics of Beneficiary Deed Law

4 min read

Legal Boulevard Square Logo

By Thomas Rosen

Beneficiary deeds transfer property at the time of the owner’s death. Learn the basics of beneficiary deed law to see if this legal solution suits your needs.

In the United States, millions of dollars of real estate changes hands daily. In 2019 alone, more than 5.3 billion existing homes were sold across the country. To be legally binding, every one of these transactions requires a signed legal document known as a deed, which confirms or transfers ownership rights to a property.

Sometimes, transfer of property ownership occurs immediately upon the death of the current property owner. That’s where beneficiary deed law comes into play.

Beneficiary Deeds Defined

A beneficiary deed — sometimes referred to as a transfer-on-death deed — is a legal estate planning document that’s used to transfer real property at the time of the owner’s death. Once this deed is set up, ownership transfers automatically to the designated person or entity when the current owner dies and a legal death certificate is presented.

Tierra Mallorca/Unsplash

Advantages of Beneficiary Deeds

The main benefit of a beneficiary deed is that it lets the parties bypass the probate process, during which the will of a deceased individual is reviewed to determine its validity and authenticity. This process, which can be affected by inheritance disputes and issues involving complicated assets, may range from a few months to a few years, holding up the transfer of property.

Because a preexisting beneficiary deed transfers the ownership of property at the time of death, that property doesn’t become part of the decedent’s estate. Therefore, it isn’t affected by the time-consuming probate process.

For individuals who plan on bequeathing property to a person or entity upon death, there are several other compelling reasons to consider a beneficiary deed.

Bernadette Gatsby/Unsplash

Disadvantages of Beneficiary Deeds

Beneficiary deeds may simplify the transfer of property from grantor to beneficiary, but there are several disadvantages to this legal document.

DIY Beneficiary Deed Law

Because beneficiary deeds are simple to set up, many individuals forgo a lawyer and create the document independently using a printable beneficiary deed, such as this one provided by Washington DC’s Office of Tax and Revenue.

Because beneficiary deeds are state-specific, forms may differ depending on where the property is located. RocketLawyer’s Document Creation website provides an easy way to create a beneficiary deed for your state.

If you choose to create your own document, it should include, at minimum, the following information:

The document should be properly formatted according to individual state requirements and should be signed and dated before a notary. A beneficiary deed is activated by filing it with the county recorder of deeds where the property is located. Before recording a deed, always check state laws to make sure your document is valid and enforceable.

Maria Ziegler/Unsplash

Other Considerations Affecting Beneficiary Deed Law

Although the laws governing beneficiary deeds are fairly straightforward, there are several factors that should be considered prior to choosing this legal path.

Whether you choose a beneficiary deed or opt for an alternative solution, it’s important to know the state laws governing these legally binding property transfer documents.

Note: An estate planning attorney or real estate lawyer can help property owners select and execute the most suitable legal option for their unique situation.


Legal Boulevard Square Logo

Thomas Rosen



How to Prepare for the Immigration Process Immigration

How to Prepare for the Immigration Process

The immigration process can be difficult to navigate. Learn what steps to take when preparing for your personal interview, naturalization test and medical exam. For many applicants, the immigration process is overwhelming and difficult to navigate. By taking the following steps to prepare, you can improve your chances of successfully achieving U.S. citizenship…

Read More about How to Prepare for the Immigration Process

5 min read

How to Determine If You Are Eligible for a Green Card Immigration

How to Determine If You Are Eligible for a Green Card

Determining eligibility for a green card can be complex. Discover eligible categories and which one might be the best fit for individuals or their families. For many people, obtaining a green card is an important milestone. It could be their first step on the road to working in the United States, joining a spouse or […]

Read More about How to Determine If You Are Eligible for a Green Card

5 min read

Class Action Lawsuits FAQ General

Class Action Lawsuits FAQ

Class action lawsuits let individuals join together to fight back against harm caused by corporations. Discover how class action lawsuits may pertain to you. Every day, deceptive business practices and outright on the part of corporations and other institutions cause physical and financial harm to individuals. Class action lawsuits give consumers the ability to fight back. Learn more […]

Read More about Class Action Lawsuits FAQ

5 min read

U.S. Immigration: How to Apply and What to Expect Immigration

U.S. Immigration: How to Apply and What to Expect

Explore the application process for U.S immigration. Learn about visa categories, eligibility requirements and information on visa approvals during COVID-19. Every year the U.S. Department of State issues immigration visas to family members, skilled workers and diversity immigrants. In 2019, the U.S. issued more than 450,000 immigrant visas to applicants across seven categories. There are different immigrant visas in […]

Read More about U.S. Immigration: How to Apply and What to Expect

4 min read