According to a Census survey, an estimated 91.3% of U.S. households owned at least one vehicle in 2016. Another study reports that some 268.8 million vehicles were registered in the U.S. in 2016. Needless to say, owning a vehicle is common among our estate planning clients.
Minnesota has had a Transfer on Death Deed, sometimes called a “TODD”, since 2008. A TODD is used to transfer title of real estate to one or more named beneficiaries upon the death of the grantor/owner. A properly executed and recorded TODD is one probate-avoidance planning tool that we use regularly with our clients, either to transfer real estate directly to beneficiaries or to a trust.
Effective August 1, 2017, Minnesota Statute 168A.125 provides that vehicle owners may now elect to utilize a transfer-on-death designation (“TOD designation”) for their vehicles. Vehicle owners may accomplish this by including a beneficiary designation in an Application for Transfer-on-Death Beneficiary (Form PS2004, available here). This Application must accompany a completed Application to Title/Register a vehicle (Form PS2000, available here) and the original certificate of title for the vehicle. These documents should be submitted to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Driver and Vehicle Services Division for processing with a fee of $38.00. Once processed, the TOD designation should be kept with the original certificate of title; DVS will not issue a duplicate title to a beneficiary.
A named beneficiary does not have an ownership interest in the vehicle until the death of the owner or the last survivor of joint ownership, subject to the rights of all secured parties. If the named beneficiary or beneficiaries predecease the owner and another designation is not made, the vehicle may be counted as a probate asset. A beneficiary is exempt from paying motor vehicle sales tax at such time as the title is transferred through the TOD designation.
Transfer-on-death designations can be a low cost way to distribute both real estate and motor vehicles at death, maintain control of the property during life, and potentially avoid the time and expense of probate, especially for those who have relatively simply estates.
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