What are Transfer on Death Deeds (TODDs)?

08.03.2021 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

What are transfer on death deeds (TODDs)?

The adage, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is” often applies to Transfer on Death Deeds (TODDs).

A TODD is a deed that beneficiary designates a property to someone upon the owner’s death.  To be valid, a TODD must be signed/dated/notarized and recorded with the county recorder prior to the owner’s death.  Because a TODD doesn’t convey title to the property until the owner dies, the owner continues to own the property and can sell, gift, mortgage, and otherwise “enjoy” all aspects of property ownership without involving the beneficiary.  Assuming the owner still owns the property at his or her death, the beneficiary clears the owner’s name from title using an Affidavit of Identity and Survivorship and a certified copy of the decedent’s death certificate.  

Because the process to clear title from the decedent’s name is simple, expedient, inexpensive, and avoids the need for a probate proceeding, TODDs are used as estate planning tools.

What can go wrong?

The most common problem with a TODD is that the owner beneficiary designates more than one person as the beneficiary.  If the owner has 4 children and names all 4 children as beneficiaries, title vests in the names of all 4 children at the owner’s death.  This means all 4 children co-own the property and must work together to pay bills relating to the property and make other decisions about the property (e.g. whether the property should be sold or rented).  When the time comes to convey title, all 4 children and their spouses must sign conveyancing documents.

If all 4 children are cooperative adults with sufficient assets to cover the expenses relating to the property until it can be liquidated or become income-producing, they can make this work, but if a child is a minor, is an incapacitated or uncooperative adult, is deceased at the owner’s death, is an adult on government benefits, or is an adult in the process of divorcing or bankruptcy, for example, it’s very difficult and expensive to deal with the property.

Another common issue with a TODD is that title and also the financial obligations secured by the property vest in the name of the beneficiary at the owner’s death.  Most beneficiaries are happy to inherit the equity in a property, but they don’t want to inherit (and perhaps can’t afford) the financial obligations tied to the property!

For these, and other, reasons, a TODD is a tool in the estate planner’s toolbox, but it is only used when is appropriate, and then, upon good counsel.  

If you are interested in a TODD, ask your Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd. estate planning attorney whether it is a good fit for your situation.


Susan T. Peterson-Lerdahl

Susan T. Peterson-Lerdahl is a shareholder in the Maple Grove, Minnesota Law Firm of Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd. She is Chair of the firm’s Estate Planning Department and has years of experience counseling individuals and families in estate planning, elder law, probate and trust administration as well as family business succession planning.

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Estate Planning & Probate Litigation

07.08.2021 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

Estate planning and probate litigation

Estate proceedings are typically not litigated.  Sometimes, however, where there is a need for court oversight, for court approval, or for resolution of a contested dispute, they are.  Such litigation matters fall into one of two “camps” depending on the decedent’s estate plan and assets: 1) a contested probate administration, or 2) a contested trust administration.  Sometimes both are necessary.

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When Estate Planning, Don’t Forget Incapacity Documents!

06.29.2021 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

When estate planning, don't forget incapacity documents

Most people associate “Estate Planning” with creating wills and trusts – in other words, planning for what happens after death. An oftentimes overlooked part of the estate planning process, however,  is preparing for incapacity. Incapacity is the physical or mental inability to manage your affairs. As important as it is to plan for your estate upon death, it is equally important to plan for what would happen should you lose mental or physical capacity.

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This is why we do what we do! (a testimonial from a client)

06.02.2021 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

Experience working with Rachell Henning

We recently received a heartwarming letter from a client regarding her experience working with Elder Law Attorney Rachell Henning:

“I need to share with you my experience working with Lawyer Extraordinaire, Rachell Henning.

“I came upon your firm (recommended through one of my dementia list servs), and immediately wrote to you. Rachell Henning responded to that email the very next day, and I feel that I was being watched over from above, because there is no doubt in my mind that the perfect lawyer was give to me to help me through the emergencies of the past few months. She works tirelessly, and has been there for every single question I have had. Her quick responses are not something I’m used to!

“Rachell Henning has truly been a gift to our family. She has worked so hard to learn all the various aspects of my brother’s diagnosis, along with the multiple layers involved in getting him the care he needs. She was also extremely helpful in finding a person to serve as my brother’s emergency guardian.

“The amount of stress that I was feeling trying to do all of this care myself for over two years, has started to melt away, and I feel unbelievably lucky that the email came to me recommending your firm, and having Ms. Henning reach out to me. She has been everything, and more, that I ever hoped to have in a lawyer!”


Rachell L. Henning

As an associate at Henningson & Snoxell, Rachell Henning brings a wealth of personal and professional experience to her practice as an elder law attorney.  From an early age, Rachell has been dedicated to assisting elderly individuals and individuals with disabilities to live their lives to the fullest. Read more about Rachell.

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DIY Estate Planning

05.12.2021 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

The pandemic has created a huge market for do-it-yourselfers in the home improvement space.

Many people have used extra time at home and the proceeds from stimulus checks to complete updates and remodels to their family’s space. With the help of Google and YouTube, some of us believe that we can gain the necessary skills to go from helpless homeowner to amateur carpenter (and save some money in the process).

Sure, installing a fancy new backsplash can be a learnable skill, but would you want to do your own electrical or plumbing? I think not! These types of specialized skills and tasks are best left to well-trained professionals.


So, why do some people believe in a DIY approach for their estate planning needs? There are a ton of online platforms and other tools available on the internet that market to the DIY estate planner. They offer fill in the blank forms that can be printed, completed, and signed with ease.

So why do you need a lawyer?

  • Do you know why certain situations require a Trust instead of a Will?
  • Do you have a solid handle on the ever-changing world of estate taxes?
  • Can you identify the differences between legal forms that are from one state or another, or perhaps that are current or outdated?
  • Do you understand the different roles of various agents, such as Personal Representatives, Trustees, Guardians, Health Care Agents and Attorneys-in-Fact?

Did you know that merely signing an estate or incapacity planning document may not be enough to make it legally binding? If not, you could be leaving behind a disaster of a “plan” that costs much more to fix than it would have cost to hire an estate planning attorney in the first place. Typically, a broken estate plan will require additional legal representation and the input of the Minnesota probate court to remedy an error or fill in a missing piece of information. This cost does not account for the frustration, time, and emotional burden placed upon the people you leave behind.

It is an estate planning attorney’s job to educate, plan for the unknown, and to ask questions you may not have known to ask yourself. When it comes to estate planning, there is no such thing as “one-size fits all”.  Contact an estate planning attorney at Henningson & Snoxell, LTD for the thorough guidance necessary to develop an estate plan tailored to your family’s circumstances and goals.

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When Should You Start Planning for Long-Term Care?

04.07.2021 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

Planning for long-term care is an emotional and overwhelming task.  It is difficult to accept aging and even more difficult to accept that at some point in our lives we will be dependent on others for help doing things we find easy to do today.  For most of us, talking about death is difficult, but I have found that talking about long-term care is even more taboo.  For many of our elderly loved ones, mine included, their biggest fear is being “thrown into a nursing home.” 

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TO VACCINATE OR NOT TO VACCINATE: What happens when parents disagree?

03.31.2021 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

Family law attorneys and courts across the country have been working hard to help families navigate these ever-uncertain times. In particular, the vaccination of children poses unique legal challenges. What happens when two parents with joint legal custody disagree on whether a child should receive the COVID-19 vaccination? To best answer that question, we will explore several factors that Minnesota courts may look to in determining what is in the child’s best interest.

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Two Important Steps to Take When Your Child Turns 18

03.12.2021 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

Two important steps to take whey your child turns 18

It is the eve of your child’s 18th birthday, and you are thinking about all the exciting things that lie ahead—high school graduation, going off to college, that first job, or perhaps even planning a wedding. At Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd. we recommend you take a few minutes to think about what happens, legally, to your relationship with your child the minute your child turns 18.

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