Bill creating transfer of death deed advances

Senators advanced a bill from general file Feb. 3 that would provide an asset specific mechanism for the nonprobate transfer of land.

LB536, introduced by Lexington Sen. John Wightman, would permit those with interests in real property to enable the owner to pass the property to a beneficiary on the owner’s death simply, directly and without probate.

Under the bill, the owner would identify a beneficiary who would succeed to the property upon the owner’s death. During the owner’s lifetime, the beneficiaries would have no interest in the property and the owner would retain full power to transfer the property or revoke the deed.

“It really is bringing real estate in line with how other investments are handled,” Wightman said. “This is just another tool for a lawyer to use if someone comes in prior to death and wants to transfer their house or small amount of assets.”

A Judiciary Committee amendment would require a Request for Withdrawal of Application form to be accompanied by a death certificate when a transfer of property occurs by way of a transfer on death deed, a joint tenancy deed or the expiration of a life estate.

Omaha Sen. Brad Ashford, committee chairperson, said the intent of the change was to give the counties additional notice beyond what they normally would receive for a transfer.

Omaha Sen. Burke Harr said the amendment improved the original bill but he still had concerns.

“A transfer on death is cheap estate planning,” Harr said. “This could occur by individuals who may not understand the ramifications of their actions … and I worry we are going to end up with unintended consequences.”

Norfolk Sen. Mike Flood opposed the amendment and the bill, saying he was wary of estates being transferred through processes other than a will.

A transfer on death deed is a pretty powerful instrument used to transfer an estate, Flood said, and it could allow someone to sign his or her assets away without credible witnesses.

“What you really have to protect is the person’s ability to know what they are doing,” he said.

Wightman agreed to discuss the concerns before select file.

The amendment was adopted 29-0 and the bill advanced from general file on a 36-0 vote.

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