Massachusetts residents can include transfer on death accounts in their estate plans to help their beneficiaries avoid having to go to court to resolve issues with the estate. These types of accounts can be used to move assets without having them included in a will, which can be helpful for people without a will or trust.

A transfer on death account is used to automatically transfer the assets it contains to the designated beneficiaries upon the death of the holder. Depending on the laws of the state, it can be various types of bank accounts, deeds or investment accounts. For individuals who own just a portion of a transfer on death assets, only the shares they own will be transferred.

Multiple beneficiaries can be added to transfer on death accounts, and the assets can be divided in any manner the holder desires. For an individual who has created a transfer on death investment account that is to be evenly divided between two offspring, each recipient will receive 50 percent of the assets when the holder dies.

The beneficiaries will not be able to access and will have no rights to the assets in a transfer on death account while the holder is alive. Also, as long as the holder is mentally competent, the beneficiaries listed on the account can be changed at any time. This is similar to when assets are named in a will; the transfer of the assets and the establishment of rights to those assets do not occur until the holder dies.

An estate planning attorney may assist clients with determining what type of legal devices should be included in a tailored estate plan. The attorney might explain how transfer on death accounts may be used for certain assets. Assistance may be provided with creating an appropriate estate plan.