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Checking accounts, savings accounts, certificates of deposit, and credit union share accounts all may be transferred outside of probate.

Pay on Death Designation

A “pay on death” designation means the designation of

  1. a beneficiary in an account payable to one party during the party’s lifetime and, on the party’s death, to one or more bene­ficiaries; or
  2. a beneficiary in an account in the name of one or more parties as trustee for one or more beneficiaries. The second designation is sometimes referred to as “in trust for,” but by law it is a pay on death designation.

On the death of the sole party or the last survivor of two or more parties in an account with a pay on death designation, the sums on deposit belong to the surviving beneficiary or beneficiaries. If two or more beneficiaries survive, the money belongs to them in equal shares.

Right of Survivorship

On the death of a party, the sums on deposit in a multiple party account belong to the surviving party or parties. If two or more parties survive and one is the surviving spouse of the deceased party (the “decedent”), the amount to which the decedent, immediately before death, was entitled belongs to the surviving spouse. If two or more parties survive and none is the surviving spouse, the decedent’s share belongs to the surviving parties in equal shares. The right of survivorship continues between the surviving parties.

Estate Planning Considerations

The type of account is established by the party or parties owning it.

An account may be changed by written notice given to the financial institution to change the account, or to stop or vary payment under the terms of the account.

As shown above, probate is not necessary to transfer ownership of sums on deposit in an account with a pay on death designation or one with the right of survivorship. Because avoiding probate is desirable, consideration should be given to employing these types of accounts for estate planning purposes.

The above article is an excerpt from Estate Planning in Arizona: What You Need to Know, 2nd Edition (Wheatmark, 2019), by Donald A. Loose, republished with the author’s permission.

Disclaimer: Laws change constantly. Specific legal advice should be obtained regarding any legal matter. The information contained on this website does not constitute legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is created. 

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Don Loose Author
Lawyer | Loose Law Group | View My Profile

Donald A. Loose is an Arizona attorney, and the author of Arizona Laws 101: A Handbook for Non-Lawyers, and Estate Planning in Arizona: What You Need to Know.  Mr. Loose is a regular guest on radio shows featuring local newsmaker interviews. He may be contacted at