How to Transfer Property Title When Death Occurs

By Maggie Lourdes

There are different ways to transfer a decedent's property. The way a person holds property title determines the steps for its transfer after death. Sometimes a probate court case must be opened to convey a decedent's property. Trusts and joint ownership with survivorship rights can avoid the need for probate. State laws generally control the transfer of a decedent's property. Therefore, required actions can vary in different states.

Probate Transfers

Many people use wills to transfer their property to named heirs after death. A will appoints an executor who is granted power by a probate judge to carry out the decedent's last wishes. An intestate estate occurs when a decedent left no will or other estate plans in place. A probate judge names an executor to transfer the decedent's property pursuant to state law. Intestate property is generally transferred to a decedent's spouse, children or next closest relatives.

Trust Transfers

Trusts are popular estate planning tools because they avoid probate courts. A trust directs a decedent's property to be transferred to named beneficiaries after the trust maker's death. A trustee has the power to transfer property according to the terms of the trust. A trustee can sign real estate deeds, liquidate financial accounts and distribute the trust's property. Avoiding probate by transferring property to a trust is simple and cost-effective.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Real Estate Joint Tenancies

Real estate title held by a married couple is called a tenancy by the entirety. Unmarried parties can own real estate as joint tenants. Real estate is automatically transferred to surviving joint tenants and spouses when their co-owners die. Generally, a joint tenant or spouse must record a death certificate at the register of deeds in the county in which the property is located. No probate proceedings are required to transfer real estate to a spouse or joint tenant.

Totten Trusts and Financial Accounts

A payable on death (POD) account, also called a Totten trust, names a beneficiary to receive account assets when the account owner dies. A POD account is transferred to the beneficiary when the account holder's death certificate is presented to the financial institution. POD accounts are used by banks as well as investment and brokerage firms. POD accounts are simple to set up — no formal, written trust agreement is required — and they avoid the costs and delays associated with probate courts.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
How to Transfer Property Held in a Trust
 

References

Related articles

What Happens to an Estate if My Dad Died in Louisiana?

Probate is the means by which a court transfers legal ownership of property from a deceased person to his heirs, usually according to his wishes as reflected in a will. Transferring legal title to property usually requires a probate proceeding in Louisiana, regardless of whether the decedent left a will. Louisiana allows the winding up of some relatively small estates without a probate proceeding, but all the conditions imposed by state law must be met in order for a probate court to distribute estate assets without a formal probate proceeding.

How to Close Bank Accounts for the Deceased Without a Will or Probate

You don't need wills or probate courts to close certain types of bank accounts when original title owners die. You can close joint accounts when your co-owner dies by simply presenting the bank with your driver’s license or other official identification. Accounts titled in trusts are closed by successor trustees when the original trustees die. A payable-on-death or POD account is closed by the account’s named beneficiary upon presentation of the original owner’s death certificate.

Where Are Last Wills & Trusts Recorded?

Last wills and living trusts are used in estate planning to ensure a person's loved ones receive assets of the estate after her death. The type of estate planning measures used depends on a variety of factors, like the size of the estate, the number of heirs and the person's private wishes. Both living trusts and wills may be recorded, but the place and time varies by the reason for the recording.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

What Is the Heir of a Deed?

Deeds transfer property. An heir inherits property from a deceased property owner. Inheritance situations usually ...

Idaho Law Regarding Death & Probate

When an Idaho resident dies, his property may be subject to probate. Probate is the process of transfering ownership of ...

Who Needs to Probate a Will?

It is a common misconception that carefully drafted wills avoid probate. All wills in the United States must pass ...

Can an Executor Probate a Will Without a Lawyer?

A will must be probated and an executor must be appointed before the assets of a deceased person can be legally ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED