Is probate required if a person dies but had a beneficiary or a pay-on-death designation?

For any assets which have either a beneficiary designation, a pay-on-death ("POD") designation, or a transfer-on-death ("TOD") designation, probate is not necessary. At the death of the owner, these assets will be paid or transferred directly to the named designee.

This is the second in a series of blogs discussing when probate is and is not necessary in Florida. An experienced Florida probate lawyer will tell you that there are at least four situations where probate is not necessary. The first of these situations is where the deceased person had assets with a named beneficiary or a POD/TOD designation. For any assets which have a named beneficiary designation, a pay-on-death ("POD") designation, or a transfer-on-death ("TOD") designation, probate is not necessary. At the death of the owner, these assets will be paid or transferred directly to the named beneficiary or designee.

There are three easy examples of this type of designation:

  • Life Insurance: Let's assume a Husband dies leaving a life insurance policy naming his Wife as beneficiary. Upon the Husband's death, the policy benefits will be paid directly to the Wife. All that is usually required is to submit a completed claim form and a death certificate to the insurance company.
  • IRA or 401K: Let's assume a Husband dies leaving an IRA or 401K naming his Wife as the beneficiary. Upon the Husband's death, the IRA or 401 K will be paid (or more likely, rolled over) directly to the Wife. All that is usually required is to submit some completed paperwork and a death certificate to the financial institution which administers the IRA or 401K.
  • Bank Account: Let's assume a Mother owns a bank account naming her daughter as the POD designee. If the Mother dies, the bank account will be paid directly to daughter. All that is usually required is to submit some completed paperwork and a death certificate to the bank.

In most instances, you will not need a lawyer to arrange for the transfer of these assets. 

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