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Arizona Legislature Adopts Real Estate “Beneficiary Deed”

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APRIL 30, 2001 VOLUME 8, NUMBER 44

Most lawyers agree that the probate process is neither as expensive nor as burdensome as most non-lawyers believe. Still, avoidance of probate is an important and legitimate goal in estate planning for most clients. The Arizona Legislature just made it easier to avoid probate for most Arizonans—or at least for those who do some simple planning.

House Bill 2280 passed both houses of the legislature and was signed by Governor Jane Hull on April 11, 2001. The new law creates an alternative way of transferring title to real estate—the “Beneficiary Deed.”

For decades smart planners have titled their bank accounts in their own names with a “POD” (Pay On Death) or “ITF” (In Trust For) designation. For the past decade it has been possible in Arizona to hold stocks, bonds and mutual funds in the similar “TOD” (Transfer On Death) form. Individuals who wanted to automatically transfer real estate did not have a similar option until passage of the new law this year.

Before the new law the owner of real property had three choices. Without any change in title, children or other beneficiaries would have to go through the probate process upon the owner’s death. A living trust could avoid the necessity of probate, but might seem expensive and cumbersome, especially in smaller estates. Many individuals chose to avoid both of those alternatives by simply placing children’s names on the title as joint owners, though that could complicate the owner’s life by exposing property to the children’s creditors, spouses and others—not to mention demands by the children themselves.

The Beneficiary Deed is a simple and elegant solution. The selection of beneficiary can be changed during the owner’s life, and the beneficiary acquires no interest in the property until the owner’s death. If no change is made, however, the beneficiary (or beneficiaries) can file a simple form and an original death certificate and property will be automatically transferred to the recipient.

In addition to avoiding the probate process, the Beneficiary Deed will permit widows and widowers to receive the full benefit of state property tax exemptions even while simplifying their estates. Children or other beneficiaries will benefit, but not acquire any interest in or control over the property during the owner’s life.

To be sure, the Beneficiary Deed will not be right for every property owner. In smaller estates, however, the availability of this simple tool will reduce the cost of estate planning and simplify administration of the estate.

Although the law is already on the books, the Beneficiary Deed is not yet an available option. It will probably become effective sometime in August. Like other new laws, this change will become effective ninety days after the end of the legislative session.

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Robert B. Fleming


Robert Fleming is a Fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been certified as a Specialist in Estate and Trust Law by the State Bar of Arizona‘s Board of Legal Specialization, and he is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Robert has a long history of involvement in local, state and national organizations. He is most proud of his instrumental involvement in the Special Needs Alliance, the premier national organization for lawyers dealing with special needs trusts and planning.

Robert has two adult children, two young grandchildren and a wife of over fifty years. He is devoted to all of them. He is also very fond of Rosalind Franklin (his office companion corgi), and his homebound cat Muninn. He just likes people, their pets and their stories.

Elizabeth N.R. Friman


Elizabeth Noble Rollings Friman is a principal and licensed fiduciary at Fleming & Curti, PLC. Elizabeth enjoys estate planning and helping families navigate trust and probate administrations. She is passionate about the fiduciary work that she performs as a trustee, personal representative, guardian, and conservator. Elizabeth works with CPAs, financial professionals, case managers, and medical providers to tailor solutions to complex family challenges. Elizabeth is often called upon to serve as a neutral party so that families can avoid protracted legal conflict. Elizabeth relies on the expertise of her team at Fleming & Curti, and as the Firm approaches its third decade, she is proud of the culture of care and consideration that the Firm embodies. Finding workable solutions to sensitive and complex family challenges is something that Elizabeth and the Fleming & Curti team do well.

Amy F. Matheson


Amy Farrell Matheson has worked as an attorney at Fleming & Curti since 2006. A member of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council, she is primarily responsible for estate planning and probate matters.

Amy graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in political science and English. She is an honors graduate of Suffolk University Law School and has been admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Fleming & Curti, Amy worked for American Public Television in Boston, and with the international trade group at White & Case, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

Amy’s husband, Tom, is an astronomer at NOIRLab and the Head of Time Domain Services, whose main project is ANTARES. Sadly, this does not involve actual time travel. Amy’s twin daughters are high school students; Finn, her Irish Red and White Setter, remains a puppy at heart.

Famous people's wills

Matthew M. Mansour


Matthew is a law clerk who recently earned his law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. His undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Matthew has had a passion for advocacy in the Tucson community since his time as a law student representative in the Workers’ Rights Clinic. He also has worked in both the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He enjoys playing basketball, caring for his cat, and listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors.