How do I set up payable-on-death accounts for my bank accounts? If I establish pay-on-death for my accounts and I die, can the person I have designated on the account get access to my money right away, or is the money frozen?
Pay-on-death (POD) accounts are among the rare legal machinations that are easy -- and free. The hardest part will be finding a bank that is staffed by human beings, as opposed to those money-dispensing machines. Ask the human to give you the bank's form for naming a POD beneficiary. When you have entered the person's name and delivered the completed form to the bank, you are finished.
After your death, the funds will not have to go through probate. They will be frozen only if your state and your bank require proof that state death taxes have been paid. The bank official should be able to give you this information -- along with a full explanation of what evidence the bank commonly accepts as proof of tax payment.
For more information on how to set up your assets to transfer automatically upon your death, see Using Transfer-on-Death Accounts and Registrations to Avoid Probate.