Wills are used to transfer property owned by a testator, the person making a will, to their beneficiaries, people they have chosen to receive their property.
One of the most important pieces of property most people own is their home. However, your assets and home don't just instantly transfer after your death. A legal process must be followed to transfer all of your assets, including real property. The person who handles that transfer is the executor, and the document used to transfer your real property is an executor deed.
An executor deed is a legal document that transfers legal ownership of real property from the deceased's estate to the beneficiary named in the will.
Understanding an Executor's Responsibilities
Wills detail how you want your property, including your home, distributed after you die. Wills explain who should get what—but it doesn't automatically transfer the assets. Your will names an executor who will handle the business of distributing your estate to your beneficiaries. The executor should be someone you trust who can take on the responsibility of wrapping up your estate.
Your will must go through a probate court proceeding during which a judge will review it and determine whether it is valid. The executor must pay all of your estate's debts and conclude all of your business and financial affairs. Once the will has been probated and the debts have been paid, the executor's job is to transfer your remaining assets to your beneficiaries. Your executor could choose to work with a probate attorney to handle all of this, or they could choose to do the paperwork on their own.
How Probate Assets Are Transferred
The type of asset determines how it must be transferred as part of the probate process. For physical objects like furniture, collectibles, or jewelry, the executor simply arranges for your beneficiaries to take possession. No paperwork is generally necessary to transfer ownership of assets like these.
Financial accounts require additional work before transfer. The account must be closed and then paid to your beneficiaries.
Real estate must be transferred through a deed. When property is transferred in accordance with your will, an executor deed is the document that is used to transfer ownership. Deeds are used to transfer ownership of real property from one person to another. When you die, your real property is owned by your estate. The executor is the legal representative of the estate and so must transfer the property to the beneficiary.
Executor Deed Requirements
An executor deed must include the following elements to be legally valid:
- Legal description of the property
- Name of the property's beneficiary
- Name of the executor and statement identifying them as executor
- Statement that the property is being transferred according to a legally valid will
- Signature of the executor and the date it was signed
- Witnesses—each state has its own rules as to how many witnesses are required and whether a notary is needed
Your executor can purchase an executor deed form, have an attorney execute one, or create their own, but must be sure it is legally valid in the state where the property is located.
Once the deed is executed (signed and witnessed), it must be recorded by the county in which your real property is located. In most states, this type of deed is exempt from transfer taxes. Once the deed is recorded, the beneficiary becomes the legal owner of the property.
This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.