The ownership of joint property after one of the owners dies usually passes to the surviving owner. However, the new sole owner might have to take action to ensure that he or she is legally recognized as the owner. As part of estate planning, it is important that you and the other person who owns property with you are aware of what can possibly happen with the property.
What Happens to the Property?
The idea of joint ownership is that once one owner dies, the ownership of the property naturally transfers to the surviving owner. However, this is not always the case. In some instances, the title to the property has to be cleared so that the surviving owner can take full ownership of the property.
The procedure for transferring joint property to the surviving owner can vary from state to state and depends on the type of asset involved. However, there are some general rules and procedures that apply.
What Do You Need to Clear the Title?
To clear the title, the surviving owner will need copies of the death certificate. More than one copy can possibly be needed because some organizations might require their own copies of the document to store with their records.
The executor of the estate can request copies of the death certificate from the funeral home director during final services planning. A request for a copy can also be submitted to the local registrar of deeds.
How Is the Title Cleared?
To clear the title at a financial institution, such as bank or brokerage company, the surviving owner usually has to provide a copy of the death certificate and complete a form provided by the institution.
A motor vehicle can be cleared through the local Department of Motor Vehicles. Complete the form provided by the agency and provide a copy of the death certificate. The deed to the car is usually transferred once the request is completed.
The procedures for transferring real estate is a bit more complex. In addition to providing a copy of the death certificate to the local public land records, you have to apply for a deed. The application process can vary and require more footwork. To ensure that you are following the right procedures, contact the county clerk's office to determine what steps you need to take.
To ensure that all of the state's rules are followed when clearing a title, work with an estate planning attorney.