Transfer on death (TOD) registration allows you to pass the securities you own directly to another person or entity (your “TOD beneficiary”) upon your death without having to go through probate.
By setting up your account or having your securities registered this way, the executor or administrator of your estate will not have to take any action to ensure that your securities transfer to whomever you have designated. However, TOD beneficiaries must take steps to re-register the securities in their names. This typically involves sending a copy of the death certificate and an application for re-registration to the transfer agent.
State law, rather than federal law, governs the way securities may be registered in the names of their owners. Most states have adopted the Uniform TOD Security Registration Act, although some have modified it. In addition, brokerage firms may decide whether or not to offer TOD registration.
As with most of your financial and investment accounts, remember to update TOD beneficiaries as your life changes. For example, if a beneficiary you name predeceases you, your beneficiary designations should be updated. If you divorce, marry, adopt or have a new child/grandchild, make sure beneficiary designations continue to reflect your wishes.
For more information about TOD registration, please visit the website of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. There you’ll find a summary of the Act, explaining how Transfer on Death (TOD) registration differs from joint ownership. You’ll also find a list of the states that have adopted the Act and the full text of the Act.
If you have not discussed a TOD with your attorney or legal counsel then we recommend you do so to avoid any conflicts with your existing legal documents or wishes.