A legislative update and legal clarification
I am writing this article for three reasons. First, in response to a statement made by Jonathan J. David in his article, “Deed helps avoid costly trusts, probate” in the June 2015 Senior Voice, which states “However, in the event your daughter predeceases you, then the TOD (Transfer on Death) designations will fail you because there will not be a beneficiary alive to receive those assets.”
In fact, under the Uniform Real Property Transfer on Death Act, which Alaska adopted in 2014, one can designate more than one primary beneficiary (all of whom would take the property upon the property owner’s death) and can also list alternative beneficiaries (who would take the property if the primary beneficiary dies before the property owner). The Alaska revocable TOD deed form in the Act makes the choice clear. This form is on the Alaska Court System website at: http://www.courtrecords.alaska.gov/webdocs/shc/probate/shs-pr-100.pdf . Additional information about the revocable Transfer on Death Deed legislation is at: http://courts.alaska.gov/shc/probate/probate-tod-deed.htm. Because there is more than one way to transfer real property to multiple beneficiaries, it may be a good idea to seek legal advice before making a decision.
Second, I am drafting legislation to be introduced next year that will allow transfer on death registrations for motor vehicles and boats. This bill, like the legislation on TOD deeds for real property discussed above, will add an easy way to transfer registered motor vehicles and boats upon death. At least 14 states have passed such laws for registered motor vehicles, and at least four have done so for vessels that are not Coast Guard registered.
Under the bill, the owner would be free to transfer the vehicle or change beneficiaries by simply registering a new title certificate at the DMV. This bill will greatly simplify and reduce the expense of transferring titles to motor vehicles and boats upon death.
I also wanted to let you know that the legislature was able to protect most of the Alaska Senior Benefits program in the 2016 operating budget passed in the special session. The program was enacted in 2007 and reauthorized in FY2011 and FY2014. It funds a critical safety net for Alaskans aged 65 or older on small incomes to help pay for food, fuel, housing, prescribed medications and other necessities. It provides tiered monthly cash assistance to more than 11,000 Alaska seniors with household incomes up to 175 percent of the federal poverty level (those whose incomes are between $11,040 and 25,000 annually).
The average age for recipients is 75. However, recipients range in age from 65 to over 100 years old. The majority of Senior Benefit recipients are women. The legislature was able to restore $2.8 million to this program, rather than make the 20 percent cut that had been proposed. Seniors eligible for this program will continue to receive $125, $175 or $250 a month.
Max Gruenberg, D-Anchorage, represents House District 16 in the state legislature.