Save for Cremation

If you're looking to save money for a future cremation, you might consider setting up a joint savings or checking account with your Next–of–Kin, or a "Totten trust" or "Payable on Death (POD)" account.*

Joint Savings/Checking Accounts

Benefits of Joint Checking/Savings Accounts:
  • If you have a joint account, and your co-owner dies, you are likely to assume full ownership of the account. That's because most accounts are automatically set up with "Joint With Rights of Ownership." This means the account does not have to go through probate. The surviving account holder (Next–of–Kin) can order the cremation immediately after the passing using the debit card associated with the account.
  • While the joint owner of an account set up as "Joint With Rights of Ownership" will receive full ownership of the account upon the death of the consignatory, this doesn''t mean they'll be responsible for paying the decedent's debts.

Drawbacks of Joint Checking/Savings Accounts:
  • Depending upon the circumstances, there may be income tax, estate tax, or inheritance tax consequences to having a joint savings or checking account.
  • Your cosignatory can withdraw the money from the account at any time.

With a joint bank account, one or more people have full access to all money contained in the account, regardless of who opens it or who makes any of the deposits. These individuals might be related, such as a parent and their adult child, or they might be spouses, but they don't have to be. You can open a joint account with your best friend or your neighbor. Joint accounts are often set up with others for estate planning purposes, so the family can easily pay co-owner's bills should an individual die or become incapacitated.

When a joint account is created, it's usually set up as "Joint With Rights of Survivorship". [NOTE: "Rights of survivorship" are sometimes called "tenants by the entirety" in some states when the account is held by spouses.] This means that, upon the death of one account holder, the assets are transferred to the surviving account holder. Most accounts carry automatic rights of survivorship but it's a good idea to check with your financial institution to ensure that this is the case for your joint account.

Tax Implications:
When you take sole ownership of the account after the date of your co-owner's death, you'll become fully responsible for paying any tax that comes due on income earned by the account. This can be negligible with a basic checking or savings account, but it can be much more significant with a well–funded investment account. Any income earned by the joint account prior to your taking over sole ownership would be reported more or less the same way as before you took over the account. It would be reported on the decedent's final income tax return if they were reporting 100% of the account's income prior to their death, or you might split it if this were your arrangement before their death.

Payable on Death/Totten Trust Accounts

Benefits of POD/Totten Trust Accounts
  • Simple to open.
  • The process to access funds for the beneficiary is easy.
  • It's free to both the account owner who establishes the POD account, as well as to the eventual beneficiary.
  • There is essentially no limit to how much money can be in the account.
  • A POD account trumps a Last Will & Testament.

Drawbacks of POD/Totten Trust Accounts
  • You can't name an alternate (contingent) beneficiary, so if the person you named predeceases you, the assets will likely transfer to the estate, and then go through probate anyway. (Naming multiple beneficiaries to the account can help offset this drawback.)
  • POD accounts may result in issues with paying off taxes, debts and other expenses the estate may owe. This can become particularly complex if the beneficiary differs from the Executor of your estate (who's charged with paying those debts and administering the estate).
  • If the beneficiary cannot be found or does not want to take ownership of the account, it can become quite complicated to go around the process.

A "Totten trust" or "Payable on Death (POD)" account is an arrangement between a bank or credit union and a client (you) that designates beneficiaries (a selected heir or heirs) to receive the assets in the account when you pass away.

People who opt for POD accounts do so to keep their money out of probate court. If you want money to go to your survivors in the simplest, quickest, and least stressful way possible, then you want to avoid probate as much as possible. Probate court incurs costs that must be paid by the estate of the deceased and often dilute the value of any financial assets that otherwise might be passed to beneficiaries.

It's easy to convert an account to a POD account by filling out the proper forms at your bank or credit union. The account holder needs only to notify the bank of who the beneficiary should be. The bank, on its end, will give the owner of the account a beneficiary designation form called a Totten trust to fill out. The completed form gives the bank authorization to convert the account to a POD.

The named beneficiary is not entitled to any of the money in the account while the account holder is still alive. Upon death, the beneficiary automatically becomes the owner of the account, bypassing the account holder's estate and skipping probate completely. (In the event that the owner of a POD account passes away with unpaid debts and taxes, their POD account may be subject to claims by creditors and the government.)

If the account holder lives in a community property state, their spouse has a claim to half of the assets in the POD account, except the assets that were acquired before marriage or funds that were inherited.

If the account was jointly owned by more than one person, a named beneficiary cannot access the funds until the last owner dies. In this case, the assets in the account will be turned over to the beneficiaries named by the last surviving owner.

There are no stipulations on the minimum amount of money that must be available in the account upon death. There are also no limitations to a POD account; the account holder can spend all the money prior to their death, change the beneficiary on the account, or close the account completely.

To lay claim to the funds, the beneficiary has to present a government ID as proof of identity in addition to a certified copy of the death certificate.

It is important to note that a POD is more powerful than a last will and testament. If a POD account has one individual named as the beneficiary, and the will of the account holder lists another individual as a beneficiary, the POD-designated beneficiary prevails. The named beneficiary on the POD account is not required to honor the account holder's last will and testament, which makes it imperative that the individual ensures to change or cancel the POD beneficiary if they have someone else listed on their will.

If you have any questions, please contact us:

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If you are in immediate need because a death has already occurred, order a direct cremation now. If a death is imminent (a matter of days or weeks), visit the Cremstar Cremation Cost Calculator for an estimate and to email yourself a customized "Order Now" link. If you are preparing for the future, visit our Planning Ahead section.


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