December 9, 2023

My mother and father were married for almost 60 years, and my mother has just passed away. I grew up an only child. I am the only child of my father; However, my mother was married before him and has a son who is my half-brother. He didn’t pick her up, nor did he see her until he saw her about 20 years ago.

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When my mother died, my father wanted to make sure I inherited his house, his savings, and his personal assets without probate, making sure nothing could be contested. That’s what he did. He filed a transfer-on-death deed with the county recorder in our county regarding the house. When he dies, the house will automatically be in my name. No probate is needed.

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,‘My half-brother is 10 years older than me and a very nice person. I’ve seen him at least four or five times in the last 20 years and never before. We don’t really keep in touch.’,

Then he went to the bank, and on his checking and savings he did TOD (transfer on death) accounts for me. The only thing left is the furniture and personal belongings of the house, which he left with me in his will. His wish was for me to inherit everything, and those were my mother’s wishes as well.

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My half-brother is 10 years older than me and a very nice person. I’ve seen him at least four or five times in the last 20 years and never before. We don’t really keep in touch. My dad says that the house will go to me in the transfer-on-death deed, so it can’t be contested by my half-brother. Is that right? Have we done the right thing? And are we seeing anything?

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Step Sister and Daughter in Missouri

Dear Step Sister,

Transfer-on-death deed means that after the demise of your father, the house will be yours. It acts like a beneficiary on a bank account or insurance policy. As you say, it also avoids probate – the public accounting of your father’s assets and liabilities – because the house is transferred to you upon his death. This is an option to hire you today. In this way, he retains the responsibility and ownership of the property during his lifetime.

If your mother dies without a will – without a will – your half-brother may have legal grounds to claim her property as a legal heir. Under Missouri intestacy law, one spouse inherits the first $20,000 in estate, plus half of the remaining amount, and the rest is inherited by the children. However, assuming your parents own their home under a joint tenancy agreement, your father would have become the sole owner of your home on your mother’s death.

As MarketWatch columnist Howard Gould writes: “Joint tenancy with rights of survivorship (JTWROS) can be used not only for real estate ownership, but also for checking, savings, funds and brokerage accounts. Under JTWROS, all ‘tenants’ have equal ownership rights And on the death of an owner, the property automatically gets transferred to the surviving tenants. Unlike the other two major forms of ownership, JTWROS also applies to non-married couples.”

are you doing the right thing? It’s not a question of right or wrong. Your parents are entitled to leave their property to a child. It is their property and their choice. Considering that your mother did not raise her son, and he has an isolated and successful life, it does not seem unreasonable that your father and late mother wanted you to inherit their entire property, especially when your mother took care of you. Got his father killed. Bottom Line: Your half-brother is not the legal heir to your father’s estate.

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Are you looking for something? This is a question for your estate attorney. A transfer-on-death or beneficiary deed needs to be notarized and recorded in county land records before your father died. Under Missouri law, you must outlive your father for 120 hours. The house is not considered a gift, so no gift tax is payable. This type of asset transfer is also preferable to the complex and often costly processes involved in placing assets in a trust.

The best part of your story is that you are in touch with your half-brother, and you have a cordial and mutually supportive relationship. I hope this continues for many years to come, and that you and he build the kind of relationship that you could have raised under one roof. You won’t always know this from reading this column, but there are more important things in life than money.

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