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Tips for Understanding Ownership of Property

There is no doubt that estate planning is such a complicated process with a number of factors that require close scrutiny. This is the reason why you need to the personal help of an estate planning attorney in order to ensure that all your assets are truly titled correctly and under your name. You will find there is a real need to understand who owns which asset as this is vital to establishing a reputable estate plan. Even if you have the most well thought out and prepared estate planning document, it can fail miserably if you are unaware how the property is titled because it can pass directly to legal beneficiaries as provided for by law or through a public process known as probate.

There are even cases that you could end up not having the right to bequeath properties at all. That is why there is a real need to get the services of a lawyer to get the best results. Here are some tips to help you understand ownership of property for a better estate planning process.

Knowing Property Ownership

The estate planning attorney ( will tell you that property is titled based on one of three basic concepts namely: sole ownership, joint ownership an or title by contract. The personal property may be titled using one of these three methods however each may include one or more variances.

Sole Ownership

According to the estate planning attorney, sole ownership in estate planning means that a property is owned by one individual in his or her name and with no transfer on-death directive. These include bank accounts and investment accounts held in the person’s name without a payable on death or transfer on death clause or an in trust for designation. The personal property is titled to the specific individual’s name in “fee simple absolute” in real estate. The person owns it 100% in his or her sole name without the remainder being transferred to another person upon his or her death.

Joint Ownership with Rights of Survivorship

The estate planning attorney will also plan during your estate planning process in detail joint ownership with rights of survivorship or without these rights. Legal Joint ownership with rights of survivorship means that two more persons have ownership of the account or real estate together with equal shares balanced between the two owners. What this means under the law is that the surviving legal owner or owners still own the property after one of the owners passes away, inheriting the deceased share as provided for by law. A good example of this is if John and Anne own each half the property if they were joint tenants with Erwann and if Erwann dies before them. John, Anne and Erwann would each have owned 33.3% and John and Anne would each get 16.65% legal ownership from Erwann. According to the estate planning attorney no owner can sell or encumber the asset with liens or mortgages without the consent of the other legal owners, although they can sell or encumber it together. The last surviving owner will have free rein on what do with the property. That is his right under the law. Reading good sites like will give you more understanding on this matter.

Tenants in Common

Another issue that the estate planning attorney will help discuss with you include joint ownership without the rights of survivorship and this is called “tenants in common.” This means that two more individuals own a specific percentage of the account or real estate but not necessarily of the same amount as one may own majority while the other owns minority. In this setup, joint ownership can pass their shares to legal beneficiaries under the terms in their wills or other estate plans but probate would be needed in order to transfer the asset. Talk to your estate attorney to discuss this more in detail.

Tenancy by Entirety and Community Property

Tenancy by Entirety – in this setup there is a special type of joint ownership with rights of survivorship between married couples. This is recognized in some states only so talk with your estate planning attorney if this is applicable.

Community Property – This is another kind of special type of join ownership that you can discuss with the estate planning attorney. In this setup ownership does not come with survivorship rights and is recognized in nine states namely: Arizona, California, Idaho, Louisiana, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. The estate planning attorney says: spouses may leave half of the ownership to anyone they prefer when they die if they opt for survivorship rights but the property will go to the surviving spouse if they did not do so.

Where Does Property go After Death?

According to the estate planning attorney, the assets may be viewed either as probate or non-probate assets. You will find that probate assets must go through a court supervised process once the owner dies, as the probate is the only means to get the asset off the deceased person’s name and into the beneficiaries. Examples of probate assets that your estate planning lawyer will discuss are: sole ownership property, tenants in common or any other assets that are owned jointly without rights of survivorship.

Non-Probate Assets

For this process the estate planning attorney says it will not have to go through any court supervised process once the owner is deceased, as there is already a plan in place to help transfer the asset from the dead owner to his or her beneficiaries. According to the estate planning lawyer these include assets owned jointly with rights of survivorship, tenancy-by-the-entirety property and certain types of community property. Find also included are assets that have a beneficiary named to inherit the asset once the owner dies.

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