-Estate planning is an essential part of protecting assets during one’s lifetime, making sure those assets are distributed as desired upon death and avoiding probate proceedings. “But,” reports Paso Robles estate planning attorney, Mary Ann Tardiff, “there are other legal ways to transfer ownership of certain kinds of assets and avoid probate without a will or a trust.”
California law provides for “Transfer on Death” (TOD) for certain assets, including vehicles and mobile homes. Designating a TOD beneficiary can be an effective way to keep vehicles and mobile homes out of probate, according to experts. By naming a specific individual as a TOD beneficiary, the property can be transferred directly to them after the owner’s death, bypassing the probate process. However, there are limitations on when and how TOD designations can be used, and expert advice may be necessary to navigate the process.
The following information summarizes the steps for making TOD designations for vehicles and mobile homes, as well as the responsibilities of beneficiaries. Mary Ann Tardiff, the Paso Robles estate planning attorney, is available to assist and make the process as seamless as possible.
- Designating TOD for vehicles: In California, a TOD beneficiary can only be designated when there is one registered owner of the vehicle. The owner retains full ownership of the vehicle and can sell it, scrap it, or donate it without notifying the TOD beneficiary. The TOD designation is revocable at any time by completing and filing a new certificate of title. To designate a TOD beneficiary for a vehicle, the owner must enter the new registered owner’s name, the initials “TOD” and the beneficiary’s name on the California Certificate of Title (pink slip). The completed and signed form must be turned in to the DMV along with the appropriate fees. Upon the owner’s death, the named beneficiary must complete certain information on the title, sign it and submit the signed title and the DMV Statement of Facts (REG 256) form to the DMV. The DMV may also require additional documentation such as a copy of the death certificate.
- Designating TOD for mobile homes: In California, mobile homes that are not on a permanent foundation are registered through the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). A TOD beneficiary can be designated on a mobile home by completing and filing a “Transfer on Death Beneficiary” form. The beneficiary cannot be a registered owner of the mobile home. The TOD is revocable during the owner’s lifetime and the beneficiary does not take any ownership interest while the owner is still alive. The beneficiary can secure ownership after the owner’s death by submitting the certificate of title, a completed and signed “Transfer on Death Beneficiary” form, and a certified copy of the death certificate to HCD.
The beneficiary of a vehicle or mobile home is responsible for providing the necessary forms and fees to the appropriate agency. They are also responsible for rent or payments due as well as fines or penalties that may be levied on the property. The beneficiary is also responsible for current registration and associated fees and may also sell, trade, or transfer the title to the property.
While California’s TOD processes for vehicles and mobile homes are relatively straightforward, expert advice may be necessary for certain situations. Mary Ann Tardiff, the Paso Robles estate planning attorney, can assist with designating TOD beneficiaries and making sure the transfer is completed as easily as possible.
An attorney for over 30 years, Mary Ann Tardiff is available during regular business hours, or other flexible times as needed by clients. She also makes house calls when the circumstances call for in-home appointments. Tardiff practices law in a down-to-earth practical manner that works for ordinary daily lifestyles. “I’m a person like everyone else who just happens to be an attorney,” says Tardiff.
After completing a B.A. at the University of California, Mary Ann attended the Santa Barbara College of Law, graduating with her J.D. degree in 1984. She was admitted to the California Bar Association in 1986. She has served as a commissioner on the Board of Parole Hearings for the California Department of Corrections, as a Judge Pro Tem and practiced law in Santa Barbara before moving to Atascadero. She serves and supports the local communities and all of San Luis Obispo County and Monterey County.
Her broad legal experience and commitment to down-to-earth, affordable and practical solutions for her clients make her a top choice to call for legal services.
Law Office of Mary Ann Tardiff
3540 El Camino Real
Atascadero, CA 93422