While your report of the new securities Transfer on Death Law ("Law Makes Estates Stock Transfer Easier," 9/15/05) was indeed good news, I'm afraid that it inadvertently gave a mistaken impression regarding probate. This new law allows securities and securities accounts to pass on death to a named beneficiary the same way in which an "in trust for" bank account can. This can be a valuable estate planning tool. My concern is your mischaracterization of probate as "a lengthy process which is subject to taxes and fees."
Probate is simply the act of proving before a court that a document is the legal Will of a deceased person. If there are no complications, which is usually the case, probate is a relatively simple, fast and inexpensive process. In Nassau County, this process can be accomplished in one or two weeks. It takes slightly longer in other New York counties. This may not be the case in other states, especially Florida. Despite an inference to the contrary in the article, passing securities to a named beneficiary under the Transfer on Death Law has absolutely no tax advantage over passing securities by a Will.
A Will has many other valuable uses such as naming guardians of minor children, giving a person the authority to settle your estate, and passing on property that cannot simply pass to another at death. The new Transfer on Death Law is a great estate planning tool but it was not meant as a blanket replacement for a properly drawn Will.
Donald S. Hecht
(Editor's note: The article Mr. Hecht's letter is referencing was a release from Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli's office.)