Close this search box.

Table of Contents

Transfer on Death (TOD)


Transfer on Death (TOD) is a legal term designating the automatic transfer of an individual’s investment or bank account to a named beneficiary upon the owner’s death. This arrangement bypasses probate, which is the legal process of settling the estate of a deceased person. The TOD designation typically allows for a smoother and faster transfer of assets to beneficiaries.


Transfer on Death (TOD) would be phonetically transcribed as /ˈtræns.fɚ ɒn dɛθ/ (TOD).

Key Takeaways

  1. Easy Transfer of Assets: Transfer on Death (TOD) is a legal arrangement that grants individuals the ability to directly transfer their assets to a named beneficiary upon their death, bypassing the lengthy and expensive probate process.
  2. Flexibility: TOD agreements are flexible as you retain full control over your assets during your lifetime and can change the beneficiary designation as you wish. It’s also worth noting that multiple beneficiaries can share the asset after the account owner’s death.
  3. Risks: Potential challenges include disputes among beneficiaries or lack of management for minors named as beneficiaries. Additionally, TOD agreements may not be recognized in all states or countries, so it’s crucial to inquire about the relevant laws in your location.


The Transfer on Death (TOD) term is crucial in business/finance as it constitutes an efficient estate planning tool that offers an easy way to smoothly transfer assets to beneficiaries upon the account owner’s death, without going through probate, a tedious and often time-consuming legal process. With a TOD agreement, the account holder maintains control over his/her assets during their lifetime, with the ability to alter beneficiaries or investments as desired. This process helps to avoid potential family disputes and legal hold-ups associated with the distribution of assets after death, thereby ensuring a swift, seamless transition that aids in preserving the value of the estate. Its importance also lies in the fact that the transition occurs irrespective of the decedent’s will, hence ensuring that the intended beneficiaries receive the assets.


Transfer on Death (TOD) is designed as a means of ensuring that certain assets are directly transferred to a named beneficiary when the asset owner passes away, without the necessity of going through probate. This simple, direct method of bequeathing assets can be an essential estate-planning tool. It helps bypass the often time-consuming and costly probate process and allows the asset to be quickly and directly transferred to the named beneficiary. This is particularly useful in situations where the owner wants the beneficiary to have immediate access to the assets.Apart from speeding up the asset transfer process, TOD plans can also provide a greater sense of control over one’s estate. This is because the owner maintains total control over the assets during their lifetime and can change the beneficiary at any time. TOD designations can be applied to individual retirement accounts (IRAs), 401(k) retirement plans, life insurance policies, and certain bank accounts. However, it’s essential to consider that TOD should be a part of an overall estate plan, and not the sole plan itself, given possible estate tax implications and potential challenges by overlooked heirs.


1. Beneficiary Financial Assets: Mr. Smith has a brokerage account with a substantial amount of investments. He wants these assets directly transferred to his children upon his death without going through probate. Therefore, he designates his children as beneficiaries through a Transfer on Death (TOD) agreement.2. Real Estate Property: Mrs. Johnson owns a real estate property and wants to avoid the lengthy probate process after her death. She utilizes the TOD deed, where available, to ensure her property directly transfers to her desired beneficiaries. This allows the heirs to avoid probate court proceedings, simplifying the transfer process.3. Vehicle Titles: Mr. and Mrs. Davis have a collection of vintage cars. They decide to put a TOD designation on their vehicle titles, stipulating that upon their death, the vehicles will be transferred directly to their son. This helps avoid the vehicles being stuck in probate, ensuring their son can take possession of them without any legal complications.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Transfer on Death (TOD)?

Transfer on Death (TOD) is a way of designating beneficiaries to receive your assets at the time of your death, without going through probate. This type of account designation is also known as a beneficiary designation.

How does Transfer on Death (TOD) work?

A TOD designation allows the assets in your account to pass directly to your named beneficiaries upon your death, avoiding the probate process. This applies to specific assets such as securities and individual brokerage accounts.

How can I set up a Transfer on Death (TOD) designation?

Each financial institution has its own forms and procedures for setting up a TOD. You generally must provide the names, addresses and birth dates of your beneficiaries, and this information must be kept up to date.

What types of assets can be included in a Transfer on Death (TOD) designation?

A TOD designation typically includes assets such as individual brokerage accounts, bonds, stocks, and mutual funds.

Can a Transfer on Death (TOD) designation be changed or revoked?

Yes, a TOD designation can be changed or revoked at any time as long as the account owner is mentally competent. This typically involves completing a form with the financial institution where the account is held.

What happens if a beneficiary in the Transfer on Death (TOD) designation predeceases the account owner?

Generally, if a beneficiary predeceases the account owner, the assets will be divided among the surviving beneficiaries.

Can a creditor claim the assets in a Transfer on Death (TOD) account?

Usually, creditors cannot claim the assets in a TOD account to satisfy the debt of a deceased account owner. However, exceptions may apply and laws differ by state, so it’s advisable to consult with a legal professional.

Are there any tax implications related to Transfer on Death (TOD)?

The tax implications for TOD accounts depend on the type of asset and the beneficiary’s relationship to the decedent. Beneficiaries may face inheritance or estate tax. Again, it’s best to consult with a tax professional for advice.

Related Finance Terms

  • Beneficiary: This is the individual or entity designated to receive assets or properties upon the owner’s death under a Transfer on Death agreement.
  • Non-probate assets: These are all assets that pass to heirs by means of a TOD agreement or other contractual arrangement and do not go through the probate process.
  • Probate process: It is the legal process of transferring the property of a deceased person to the rightful heirs, which can be avoided with a TOD agreement.
  • Revocable: TOD agreements are typically revocable, meaning that the owner can change the beneficiary or revoke the TOD designation at any time as long as they are alive.
  • Joint ownership: A situation in which a property is owned by more than one person. The implications of a TOD designation can differ when there’s joint ownership.

Sources for More Information

About Our Editorial Process

At Due, we are dedicated to providing simple money and retirement advice that can make a big impact in your life. Our team closely follows market shifts and deeply understands how to build REAL wealth. All of our articles undergo thorough editing and review by financial experts, ensuring you get reliable and credible money advice.

We partner with leading publications, such as Nasdaq, The Globe and Mail, Entrepreneur, and more, to provide insights on retirement, current markets, and more.

We also host a financial glossary of over 7000 money/investing terms to help you learn more about how to take control of your finances.

View our editorial process

About Our Journalists

Our journalists are not just trusted, certified financial advisers. They are experienced and leading influencers in the financial realm, trusted by millions to provide advice about money. We handpick the best of the best, so you get advice from real experts. Our goal is to educate and inform, NOT to be a ‘stock-picker’ or ‘market-caller.’ 

Why listen to what we have to say?

While Due does not know how to predict the market in the short-term, our team of experts DOES know how you can make smart financial decisions to plan for retirement in the long-term.

View our expert review board

About Due

Due makes it easier to retire on your terms. We give you a realistic view on exactly where you’re at financially so when you retire you know how much money you’ll get each month. Get started today.

Due Fact-Checking Standards and Processes

To ensure we’re putting out the highest content standards, we sought out the help of certified financial experts and accredited individuals to verify our advice. We also rely on them for the most up to date information and data to make sure our in-depth research has the facts right, for today… Not yesterday. Our financial expert review board allows our readers to not only trust the information they are reading but to act on it as well. Most of our authors are CFP (Certified Financial Planners) or CRPC (Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor) certified and all have college degrees. Learn more about annuities, retirement advice and take the correct steps towards financial freedom and knowing exactly where you stand today. Learn everything about our top-notch financial expert reviews below… Learn More