Transferring Real Estate After Death: What You Need to Know

By Chris Tymchuck
Founding Attorney


Ensuring that your loved ones are cared for after you die is important. If your estate contains real estate, that property will likely be seen by your surviving loved ones as extremely valuable, so it is important to understand your options for distributing it through your will after you die to reduce the potential for conflict and ensure your wishes are honored.

What Are the Different Types of Titles, and How Are They Transferred?

First, you need to know what kind of title to the property you have. This can often be accomplished by reading through the deed which transferred the real estate to you. The deed will contain language describing how you own the property, which determines how it can be transferred.

Property can be owned and transferred in a number of different ways, and an ideal outcome is that you ensure your estate does not go to or goes through as short a probate period after you die as possible. Probate is the process by which a court validates your will and authorizes the executor of your estate to distribute it to your beneficiaries as you directed.

If the property is owned in your name alone, you are able to designate whomever you wish to inherit it through your will. Property owned in sole ownership often has to go through probate to get to the intended beneficiary.

Sometimes you are not the sole owner, however. If the deed says your title is held in “joint tenancy” or “joint tenancy with right of survivorship,” that means any surviving co-owner of the property will automatically, upon your death, assume ownership. If the deed says you have “tenancy by the entirety,” this means you own the property with your spouse and that they will own it following your death. For both titles, no probate is necessary, though there may be some paperwork.

If your deed says “tenancy in common,” that means there are co-owners who each possess a right to the entire property. Each co-owner can designate a beneficiary of their interest in the property, and probate is necessary to transfer this interest. Additionally, if your deed says that your property is held “in trust,” it will also likely show that the property was transferred to a trustee who manages your trust. You will want to make sure that the trustee transferred the property to you before you designate a recipient.

What Do I Need to Know About Deeds?

A deed is the legal instrument that specifies who has title to a piece of property. You will want to make sure the deeds to the property you are conveying contain the following information: information that it is a deed; a specific description of the property involved, your signature; and who is receiving title to the property.

Questions About Transferring Your Real Estate After Death?

As the above demonstrates, distributing your estate after you die can be complicated, but you want to make sure the process is as straightforward and easy for your loved ones as possible. Contact Unique Estate Law to learn more about your options. Chris Tymchuk

About the Author
As a Minneapolis Estate Planning and Probate attorney I help build and protect families through the adoption, estate planning, and probate processes. I also have experience working with families on issues related to their small businesses. I know how difficult it is to find time to plan for the future and I am here to help walk you through it.