Is there a way to transfer my house and land after I die without it going through probate?

Yes. As of June 1, 2014, a new law allows a property owner to write a deed with a “transfer on death” beneficiary. It creates an automatic transfer to the beneficiary upon the death of the property owner similar to a joint tenancy, but it is a bit different. The main difference between this deed and joint tenancy is that the property owner retains ALL of the rights of ownership while living, including the right to live in the house, the right to sell the house, and the right to revoke the deed altogether, among others. This new law, referred to as the Transfer on Death Deed Act, creates a way for people to pass houses and land onto their heirs while avoiding probate and Medicaid estate recovery.  

The Transfer on Death Deed has a couple specific differences from a more traditional deed. First, the Transfer on Death deed must state that the transfer of land is to occur upon the transferor’s death. Second, in order for the deed to be valid, the Transfer on Death deed must be recorded in the office of the clerk of the county commission where the property is located BEFORE the transferor’s death. 

This new type of deed can be largely beneficial to many seniors because they have the option to retain all of their rights of ownership in their homes and land during their lifetime so the possibility of abuse by a beneficiary is limited. Also, this type of deed is helpful for seniors who want to pass real property to their beneficiaries while avoiding probate and Medicaid estate recovery.  

For more information, see: W.Va. Code 36-12-1 through 36-12-17