Good Deeds Program

The Hamilton County Probate Court and the Hamilton County Recorder’s Office, in collaboration with local volunteer lawyers, are offering the GOOD DEEDS PROGRAM to help Hamilton County residents better understand probate issues regarding their property transfers.

The GOOD DEEDS PROGRAM includes a voluntary deed review process for homeowners.  The goal of this effort is to help Hamilton County residents identify if their current deed and other assets will require transfer through Probate Court upon death, and to consider less expensive and time-consuming alternatives to a probate transfer.

How The Good Deeds Program Works

Deed Review Process

Step 1.

The Hamilton County Recorder’s Office will provide a copy of your current deed upon request (for more information about deeds see GOOD DEEDS CHECKLIST BELOW).  To obtain a copy of your current deed, contact the Hamilton County Recorder's Office at 513-946-4600 or visit their website at

Step 2.

Attend an upcoming GOOD DEEDS COMMUNITY FORUM between the Probate Court, Recorder’s Office Staff, and local volunteer attorneys.

Date TimeLocationDetails
Monday, February 19, 2024 7:00-9:00 PMSt. Bernard-Ludlow Grove Historical Society 110 Washington Ave, St Bernard, OH 45217
Researching Property in Hamilton County, Ohio, by Scott Crowley

Free for members of the St. Bernard-Ludlow Grove Historical Society
$5.00 for non-members

Step 3. (OPTIONAL)

Refer to local attorneys for individual estate planning as needed.

The Good Deeds Checklist

The Court is available to effectively probate the estates of Hamilton County residents and sometimes a will and opening an estate is necessary. You should know, however, that a less expensive and faster alternative may be available in certain situations. Our GOOD DEEDS CHECKLIST provides examples of types of property you may own and explains low or no-cost ways to avoid a probate transfer, saving you and your loved ones legal costs down the road.

Real Estate Survivorship Deeds for Couples or Joint Owners

If you own or plan to own real estate property jointly (for example, with a spouse) and you want the property to pass to the other joint owner automatically upon your death, a survivorship deed is a low-cost mechanism to achieve this goal. Such a deed must include language to the effect of "FOR THEIR JOINT LIVES, REMAINDER TO THE SURVIVOR OF THEM."

Did you know that even if you own your property jointly depending on the form of your present deed, your family may have to file a proceeding in the Probate Court to transfer ownership of your home upon your death? Unless your property is in a trust, an LLC, or contains survivorship language, you may have to go through the probate process (which would likely involve attorney fees, court costs, and extra time) just to transfer ownership of the property into the other joint owner's name alone.

Individuals buying a home together who wish to have a survivorship deed issued may instruct the preparer of their deed to include the necessary survivorship language. Preparation now will save you time and money later.

Transfer on Death (T.O.D.) Affidavit for Individual Owners

Another way for an individual owner (for example, single individuals and surviving spouses) to transfer real property at death while saving time and money, and without having to go through the probate process, is to execute a Transfer on Death (T.O.D.) Affidavit. A Transfer on Death Affidavit generally includes the individual's name, legally identifies the property, and names the beneficiary or beneficiaries of the property upon the death of the current property owner. Once executed, if the property is located in Hamilton County, the property owner should record the T.O.D. Affidavit at the Hamilton County Recorder's Office, 138 East Court Street, 2nd Floor, Cincinnati, Ohio, 45202.

The cost to prepare and file a T.O.D. Affidavit is minimal compared to the costs to transfer real property, after the death of the property owner, via the probate process.

For more information:

Bank Accounts & Payable on Death (P.O.D.) Accounts

Anyone who owns a bank account can add Payable on Death (P.O.D.) beneficiaries to the bank account at NO COST. Upon death, the money in the P.O.D. account is paid directly to the P.O.D. beneficiaries upon presentation of the death certificate of the original account holder.

Until the account holder's death, the beneficiaries can't access the bank account. Without a P.O.D. account, the account must be administered through the Probate Court before being transferred pursuant to a will or as provided by law.  Contact your bank and they should be able to walk you through the process.

Motor Vehicle Transfer on Death (T.O.D.)

A vehicle owner can have a Transfer on Death (T.O.D.) notation placed on the vehicle title at the Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Automobile Title Division Office with the names of up to two (2) beneficiaries, their addresses, and social security numbers. There is a small fee to re-issue a vehicle title with a T.O.D. notation. With the T.O.D. notation, ownership of the vehicle passes to the named T.O.D. beneficiary by showing the vehicle title and the death certificate of the deceased owner. A T.O.D. notation helps avoid Probate Court and saves time and money.

Married Couples: A surviving spouse may transfer an unlimited number of vehicles valued up to $65,000.  This transfer does not affect any liens on the vehicle. If a lien exists, it will be carried forward.  

Similar to a motor vehicle, boats, campers, recreational vehicles, and mobile homes are titled assets, and you can designate a transfer on death (T.O.D.) beneficiary to avoid the probate court process.  The procedure for a T.O.D. notation is similar to the motor vehicle T.O.D. process.

More information can be found at:

Stocks & Bonds

Most stocks are now held in mutual fund accounts which have the option to add a beneficiary designation. Individual shares of stock will transfer through the Probate Court if they are owned by an individual without a designated co-owner.

You may place a T.O.D. notation on shares of stock through the issuer of the stocks. You can find help with this process by contacting the issuer of the stock.

Savings bonds must be jointly owned or have an official T.O.D. notation right on the bond to transfer directly at death and avoid probate. To add a co-owner to a bond, or to designate a T.O.D. beneficiary contact the issuer of the bond.

Life Insurance and Other Investment Accounts

Most long-term investments (for example, IRAs, 401Ks, investment accounts, life insurance, mutual fund accounts) include the option to add a beneficiary designation to avoid the transfer of assets being administered through probate court. It's a good idea to review beneficiary designations periodically to ensure they accurately reflect your current situation.  Many forms can be viewed online or ask the issuer for a copy.  If you name your “estate" as a beneficiary, the asset becomes a probate asset requiring transfer through probate court.

Individual shares of stock and savings bonds without co-owners or transfer on death designations will have to pass through probate.  For more information, you may wish to consult an attorney or tax advisor.

Remember, it is still important to have a WILL because some possessions may not be able to transfer outside of probate court through one of the techniques described in this brochure. Parents with minor children should have a WILL to designate their choice of guardian for their children should something happen to them. Your WILL should be stored in a safe and secure location (for example, fireproof safe). Alternatively, you may deposit your WILL safely with the Hamilton County Probate Court for a small fee.

If something happens to you, your loved ones could face unnecessary costs and delays in receiving the property and assets you wish to pass on to them.

The Good Deeds Program is a public service brought to you by our offices.  Probate law is complex and many people cannot afford to hire an attorney to assist them in completing the entire probate process.  Without planning and the assistance of an attorney to guide your family through a complicated process, your family could face the loss of inherited money and property.  While a will and probate are necessary for some things (for example, a will to provide for the guardianship of minor children) some assets can pass outside of probate.  You can act now to help avoid unnecessary loss down the road due to legal fees, court costs, and delays.  We hope you find the information offered through the Good Deeds Program helpful and we look forward to serving you. 


Ralph Winkler

Scott Crowley

The information on this webpage is provided as a public service and does not constitute legal advice which can only be given to you by an attorney.  Many probate matters involve complex and valuable legal rights.  It is advisable to speak with an attorney to assist with estate planning.