This blog explains how title decides how real estate is transferred after death

If you’re wondering how real estate is transferred after death, you’re not alone. Following a death in the family, real estate tends to be the single most valuable asset listed in the will. If you are in line to inherit some real estate, how the title is held will show you how the property will be transferred to you.  

Finding the Deed

In order to transfer real estate when someone has passed away, the deed is required. It will show how the property was transferred to the deceased. Deeds can be titled as one of the following:

  • Quitclaim deed: A property transfers ownership without a sale.
  • Grant deed: The title has not already been granted to another person.
  • Joint tenancy: Ownership was shared, and the property passes to the survivors.
  • Warranty deed: There are no liens against the property, and the previous owner has the right to transfer the property to you.

The deed will also help establish if probate is required. 

Sole Ownership

In the case of the deceased being the sole owner, it will be transferred per the will. If a will does not exist, the property will be transferred in accordance with state law. 

Other Possible Scenarios

When the deceased was not the sole owner, there are a number of other scenarios for the title, including:

  • Joint tenants: As mentioned above, in the case of a joint tenancy or joint tenancy with right of survivorship, the property has co-owners. This means it will go to the surviving co-owner and probate will not be required. Paperwork is simply filed to switch to sole ownership. 
  • Tenants by the entirety: If the deceased leaves behind a spouse, they become the sole owner without the need for probate. 
  • Community property: Although this is property owned by a husband and wife, and in some states registered domestic partners, community property does not automatically go to the spouse. Instead, a beneficiary can be named if they wish. If they do not name a beneficiary, then it will go to the spouse. This only applies in certain states, including Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. 
  • Tenancy in common: This is rare but could include cases in which siblings inherited land together or where there was a business partnership involved. A beneficiary can be named by each co-owner, but should there not be a beneficiary named, interest goes to the closest relatives of the co-owner. In this case, probate is required to transfer the property. 
  • Tenancy in common with right of survivorship: Some states also offer community property with right of survivorship to ensure that should the beneficiary predecease the co-owner; the beneficiaries share reverts to the co-owner without the need for probate. This ensures it does not fall into the estate of the deceased.
  • In trust: In this case, the property is transferred to the trustee of the trust. 

To see the exact laws and procedures regarding decedent’s estates (how real estate is transferred after death) in all 51 jurisdictions in the United States, purchase the Ultimate Real Estate Transaction Compliance Manual from System 2 Thinking. It’s the professional’s go-to tool for curated information regarding the highly complex laws and customs surrounding real estate transactions. Buy a copy

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