Transfer On Death deed allowed

Q. I was told that Texas now allows me to have a special type of deed that transfers title to my home after my death without probate. Is this true? What is it called?

A. As of September 1, 2015, Texas allows an owner of real property to transfer the property to his or her beneficiaries by executing what is called a Transfer On Death (TOD) deed. This type of deed effectively avoids the need for probate to transfer the title to real property after death. Homeowners can now transfer real property after death without incurring legal fees or court costs.

The TOD is similar to providing a beneficiary on a bank account. The deed also allows the owner to name a primary and an alternative beneficiary who will inherit the property upon the owner’s death. Because the deed does not take effect until death, the owner retains all ownership rights during his or her lifetime. The TOD deed also may be cancelled by filing a new TOD deed with a different beneficiary, or filing a notice of cancellation where the TOD deed was filed.To be effective, the TOD deed must meet all the formalities of a normal deed, must be signed and notarized. It them must be recorded before the transferor’s death. If you believe that this deed is right for you, there is free information and forms for a TOD deed available from the Texas Legal Services Center. Visit texaslawhelp.org and search for “Transfer On Death deed.”Q. I had a car accident. The person who hit me won’t tell me the name of his insurance company. I don’t believe he even has insurance.  The damages to my car are not extensive and I was not seriously hurt, but I would think he should pay. Am I out of luck?

A. This seems to be a common question. I should first point out that driving without insurance is unlawful and the person could be subject to a substantial fine and loss of his license. Promptly reporting the accident to the police is one way to find out if the other party has insurance.As far as liability, insurance really is not relevant. If the person who hit you caused the accident, he is liable for your damages. Whether he has insurance does not change his liability. If the amount of your damages is under $10,000, I suggest you file a claim in justice court. If you file suit, the other person probably will bring in his insurance company, if he has insurance. If he doesn’t have insurance and doesn’t pay a judgment in your favor, he could lose his driver’s license and car registration.Q. I heard you have a consumer newsletter. How do I subscribe? How much does it cost?

A. You heard correctly. I publish my Consumer Alert Newsletter by email three times, every week. Each issue contains useful information ranging from shopping and budgeting hints to legal updates. The newsletter is free, but you must subscribe at my website below.Q. My apartment lease was up in January. Since that time we have had a month-to-month agreement. I am now moving out. I gave proper notice. I am afraid my landlord will not return my security deposit. Can I require the landlord to use my security deposit for the last month’s rent?

A. A security deposit is designed to compensate the landlord for damage to the apartment. Under the Texas Security Deposit Law, assuming you gave proper notice and a forwarding address, a landlord must either return your security deposit, or give you written notice of why it is being withheld within 30 days of when you move out. A landlord who violates this law is considered to be acting in bad faith, and may owe the tenant three times the deposit plus $100.You cannot, however, require the landlord to use the deposit to cover the last month’s rent. In fact, if you do, the landlord has the right to sue you for three times the deposit plus another $100. My advice is to pay your rent, and if your security deposit is not properly returned, use the Texas Security Deposit Law.Do you want to know more about your legal rights? Visit my website, www.peopleslawyer.net

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