When a person dies ownership of real estate?

When a person dies ownership of real estate?


When a person dies, the ownership of their real estate becomes an important legal matter. The distribution of real estate assets can be a complex process, involving various legal considerations and procedures. In this article, we will explore the different aspects of what happens to real estate ownership when a person passes away.

Probate Process

Probate: The probate process is the legal procedure by which a deceased person’s estate is administered and distributed. When it comes to real estate, the probate process determines who will inherit the property and how it will be transferred.

Will: If the deceased person left a valid will, it will dictate how their real estate assets should be distributed. The will may name specific individuals as beneficiaries or designate the property to be sold and the proceeds divided among the heirs. The will must go through the probate process, and the court will oversee the transfer of ownership according to the instructions in the will.

Intestate Succession: If the deceased person did not have a will, their real estate assets will be distributed according to the laws of intestate succession. These laws vary by jurisdiction but generally prioritize the deceased person’s closest relatives, such as spouses, children, and parents. The court will determine the rightful heirs and transfer ownership accordingly.

Joint Ownership

Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship: When a property is owned in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, the surviving joint owner automatically becomes the sole owner of the property upon the death of the other owner. This means that the property does not go through probate and is not subject to the deceased person’s will or intestate succession laws.

Tenancy by the Entirety: In some jurisdictions, married couples can hold real estate as tenants by the entirety. Similar to joint tenancy, when one spouse dies, the surviving spouse automatically becomes the sole owner of the property. This type of ownership also avoids probate.


Revocable Living Trust: A revocable living trust is a legal arrangement where the property owner transfers their assets, including real estate, into a trust during their lifetime. They can serve as the trustee and retain control over the property. Upon their death, a successor trustee takes over and distributes the assets according to the trust’s instructions. This process bypasses probate and allows for a smoother transfer of real estate ownership.

Transfer on Death Deed

Transfer on Death Deed (TOD): Some jurisdictions allow for a transfer on death deed, also known as a beneficiary deed. This document allows the property owner to designate a beneficiary who will automatically inherit the property upon their death. The property does not go through probate and is transferred directly to the named beneficiary.


When a person dies, the ownership of their real estate is determined through various legal mechanisms. The probate process, wills, intestate succession laws, joint ownership, trusts, and transfer on death deeds all play a role in the transfer of real estate ownership. It is important to consult with legal professionals to ensure that the distribution of real estate assets is handled correctly and in accordance with the applicable laws.


– FindLaw: www.findlaw.com
– LegalZoom: www.legalzoom.com
– Investopedia: www.investopedia.com