How Do I Set up a Payable-On-Death Account?

Question:

How do I set up payable-on-death (POD) designations for my bank accounts? If I establish a POD account, can the person I've designated on the account access my money right away after I die, or is the money frozen?

Answer:

POD accounts are among the rare legal tools that are easy—and free—to make. Some banks allow you to update a POD designation online for some types of accounts. If your bank doesn't allow you to make a POD designation online, go to your bank's local branch and ask for a form to name a POD beneficiary. When you give the completed form to the bank, you're all set.

After your death, the funds won't have to go through probate—a court process that can be time consuming and expensive. 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 information about why it would freeze the funds—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.

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