Your estate planning choices control how your property is transferred after you die. Land in your estate may be conveyed to its new owners after your death through the probate court process. Or, you may arrange for your estate to bypass probate by using estate planning tools called will substitutes.
Whether you die with or without a will, your estate will likely pass through probate court. Dying without a will means that your state's intestacy laws determine how your estate will be divided among your relatives. By contrast, with a will, you get to determine who receives your property. Judges empower personal representatives, or executors, to gather and distribute probate estate assets including land. Property deeds conveying land ownership are signed by personal representatives and recorded in the county's register of deeds. Recorded deeds serve as notice to the public that property ownership has changed.
Estate land may avoid probate if you use will substitutes. For example, if you own land with joint tenants, your surviving co-owners automatically take your property share upon death. You also may title your land into a trust to bypass probate. Your trustee is empowered to sign and record deeds transferring your land to your trust's beneficiaries without court approval.