Spouses generally hold real property as joint tenants with right of survivorship, community property or by tenants in entirety. Upon the death of one spouse, title automatically transfers to the surviving spouse by law through the issuance of a survivorship deed. Rights of survivorship laws vary in each state. The transfer of property not held jointly is determined by will, intestate law (no will) or by a trust.
When a spouse dies with a will, property that is not jointly held is transferred to the heirs in accordance with the deceased spouse’s last will and testament. The procedure is as follows:
When a spouse dies without a will, intestate law of the state where the spouse resided governs. The transfer of property is conducted as follows:
When a spouse dies and property is held in a trust, the transfer is conducted as follows:
An estate tax and/or probate attorney can help with filing a probate petition, will and Intestate law matters in connection with the winding up of an estate and transfer of assets to the heirs. The attorney can also assist with trust matters, income tax, estate tax matters and will contesting issues and prepare a survivorship deed.