A Question of Titles – Your Legal Documents
When someone dies, what happens to that person’s assets
frequently depends on the way title to that asset is held.
You may think you know exactly to whom you will be leaving your property, but do you? Is your home in Joint Tenancy With Right of Survivorship (JTWROS)? A beneficiary designation in your will? Solely in your name? In the name of a trust? What about your car and financial accounts?
In each of the title designation examples above, the person who will receive the property, and how that transfer will take place, are different. Knowing how your asset is titled is especially important in the matter of real property (real estate). The owner usually thinks he or she knows how title is held, but frequently the actual title is different.
Mistakes concerning titles do happen. Some recent examples:
- A senior purchased property for cash. She told the seller to title the house in the name of her trust. The title company put the title in the name of the purchaser, instead and that is the deed on record with the County Recorder. If the error hadn’t been caught prior to the owner’s death, the property would have had to go through probate.
- A man owned a house in his own name. Several years later, he refinanced the property with his partner. The mortgage is correctly in the name of both, the new title is not, because the title company put the new title back into the name of the original owner.
- A woman and her partner purchased property together and asked that the title be put into JTWROS. The title company put it into the names of the women without the joint tenancy designation. If one had died, her half of the property would have gone through probate, and without a will, it would have been given to her nearest living relative.
- A man died, telling his son that he wanted his property to go to the son. Unfortunately, his will was not valid, and because he had not recorded a Beneficiary Deed, the property will have to go through probate, and will be split between the son and a long-absent daughter.
It is crucial that everyone be aware of the way the title to his or her property is recorded.
Check It. The easiest way to check how your real estate is titled is to follow the directions for a property title search shown in our Resources section, and pull up the latest recorded deed.
Change It. If the title is not the way you want it, it is relatively easy to change. If you would like assistance with preparing a new deed or correcting an incorrect one, please call us at 602-952-0293.