What Happens to Your Property When You Die?
There are three ways that you can have an ownership interest in property: individually, jointly with another person, or through contract rights.
Individually owned property is property you own in your name only. This property does not have any pay on death provisions nor is it titled “jointly” with another party.
As a result, no one has the legal right to access or transfer the property after you die.
To remedy this, the property generally has to go through probate before your heirs or beneficiaries can gain legal access. If you leave a Will, then your executor and the probate court follow the wishes you expressed in your Will for distributing your property to your beneficiaries.
If you die without a Will (called dying “intestate”), then your individual property must still go through probate, but the person or persons who inherit the property will be determined by state law.
Probate can be a time-consuming process, and many people choose to avoid it by establishing a Revocable Living Trust. This legal document allows property owners to transfer their individual property into a trust where it will be distributed by a trustee upon their death.
This ensures that their wishes are followed and, because the property is actually held in the name of the trustee, it does not have to go through probate.
Whether your estate plan is based on a Will or a trust should be determined by your individual goals and circumstances. An estate planning attorney can help you figure out what’s best for you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Steve Mendel
Mendel Law Firm, L.P. offers estate planning and business planning resources to residents of Houston TX.
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.