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Estate of Ganoni – Beneficiary Deed Validity

“Hi, I’m Kent Berk. I’m an attorney at the Scottsdale, Arizona law firm of Berk Law Group, where we handle trust, estate, probate, and real estate disputes here in Arizona.

Want to explain, today, what happened in the estate of Ganoni. This case involved a question of the validity of a beneficiary deed. A beneficiary deed is a deed that a person can sign specifying who gets their property, but it only takes effect when they die.

A beneficiary deed would still allow the grantor, the person signing the beneficiary deed, to transfer their property while they’re still living, to get a loan against it. They can amend or revoke the beneficiary deed. It just takes effect when the person dies. It’s a will substitute or a non‑probate transfer.

In this particular case, there was a question over the validity of the beneficiary deed because, at the time that the deed was signed, the grantor, Ganoni, owned the property in her trust. She didn’t own it herself. It was owned in the name of her trust.

The question was whether that beneficiary deed that she signed was valid. After she transferred the property into her trust, she signed a beneficiary deed providing that her property would go to an attorney, Sorrell.

At that time, Ganoni’s trust provided that that real estate was going to go to Sorrell. Later, after the beneficiary deed was signed and recorded, she amended her trust to just leave some money to Sorrell but not the real estate.

There was a conflict between the beneficiary deed and the terms of the trust as of the time that Ganoni died. The court was faced with the question of whether Ganoni, as trustee of the trust, could sign a beneficiary deed or whether the deed signed by Ganoni, even though the property was in her trust, was still valid.

The court held that it wasn’t because a beneficiary deed, the court found, can only be signed by a natural person, by a natural individual, not a trust and, because at the time that Ganoni signed the beneficiary deed the property was owned in the name of her trust, the beneficiary deed was invalid.

Sorrell was stuck with whatever was granted under the terms of the trust, not the beneficiary deed.

If you have any questions regarding a beneficiary deed or you have a trust, estate, or probate dispute, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Thank you.” – Kent Berk