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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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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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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Estate Planning is for Everyone – a Testimonial

08.18.2020 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

Estate planning is for everyone - a testimonial

The following is an unsolicited testimonial from Chuck and Connie D.


“We have attended a variety of seminars conducted by Henningson and Snoxell.  All the seminars have given us great information and tools to use.  The seminars are free and the takeaway information and understanding is amazing.

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What is a Trust?

09.24.2019 Written by: Henningson & Snoxell, Ltd.

We created an infographic to define a trust and how it can play a significant part of your estate planning goals. Have further questions? Our Attorneys are here to help!

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