Although the probate process has a reputation for being a long, drawn-out nightmare, the actual transfer of property to a beneficiary is relatively straightforward. Usually, a single document can effectuate the change in ownership. In the case of real estate, transfer is accomplished by a deed, but with stocks and financial securities, an affidavit of domicile is required. The document identifies what state court has jurisdiction over the estate. In some cases, the deceased’s place of domicile can also affect tax issues – some states impose estate and inheritance taxes while others do not.
What the Affidavit Includes
Most banks and brokerage firms have preprinted affidavits available so you can request one and just fill in the blanks. You can also download an Affidavit of Domicile form from the Internet. Signing and submitting one typically requires that you are the executor of the decedent’s estate or the survivor who’s inheriting the stocks or securities. The affidavit asks for the name of the deceased, his date of death, the address where he resided at the time of his death, and it may ask how long he lived there. It instructs the business or transfer agent to transfer ownership of the stocks or securities to the estate or to the decedent’s heir.
Some financial firms or banks require additional documents before they’ll make the transfer. For example, those in New Jersey might ask for a “short certificate,” a document issued by the surrogate court to show that the estate is in probate. If you contact the bank or firm, the staff can tell you if you’ll need to submit anything extra.