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Ownership of Property After Death

In a world where death is not always foreseen, it’s important to understand the types of ownership available for your property to ensure that it falls into the right hands. Ownership can primarily be divided into sole and co-ownership.

The simplest type of ownership is a sole owner. This is when one individual has full ownership of the property. Upon passing away, no particular person will have ownership of the property because one person owned it. The property will be transferred based on the individual’s will. However, if the owner did not take time to write a will, it will be under the jurisdiction of the state.

Co-Ownership is when two or more people have the legal right to the property. The co-owners can be a married couple, an adult and their child, business partners, or other relation. There are two common types: tenancy in common and joint tenancy.

Tenancy in Common occurs when property is shared and is not under another type of ownership (joint tenant, partnership, etc.). The property is divided amongst each tenant in common, where each party has a percentage. When an individual who had ownership of property becomes deceased, the property can be dispersed according to that individual’s will. It does not go to the other tenants in common. If the property owner does not have a will, then the court will determine how and to whom the property will be transferred.

In a joint tenant, each tenant has full ownership of the property. It has priority above a will or heirs, as it is a contract between each tenant. When a tenant passes away, the property is automatically distributed to the other tenants because of the “right of survivorship.”

Real estate laws are always set by the state in which the real estate is located. In order to transfer jointly owned real estate from the deceased person’s name to the surviving co-owner, one will need to document in public land records that the joint owner has passed away and that the surviving co-owner now the primary owner of the property. In many states, all that is needed is a certified copy of the deceased co-owner’s death certificate that will be filed for public record. In a few other states, the surviving co-owner may need to sign and file a statement explaining the facts and reasons why he or she is now the sole owner of the property. Call your local county land records office where the property is located to discuss the exact needs for getting the land turned over to the surviving co-owner.

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