A title is a legal document that refers to the ownership rights a person or entity holds in a property or other type of Asset. Titles establish the lawful right for the owner to possess, use or transfer the asset.
These types of assets can include real estate property, vehicles, other types of personal property, or financial accounts.
After a death, titles are important in many ways:
Probate and Title Transfer: A deceased person's assets are typically transferred to their Heirs or Beneficiaries according to their details outlined in their Will (if they have one), or the according to state law if they did not. This transfer occurs during the Probate process and the titles of these assets are officially transferred from the deceased's name to beneficiaries' names.
Automatic Transfer: In some cases, certain assets may be able to bypass probate entirely due to the structure of their ownership titles. For example, assets held jointly, known as Joint Tenancy, or assets with designated beneficiaries (e.g., life insurance policies, retirement accounts), transfer directly to the surviving co-owner or beneficiaries outside of probate.
Real Estate: Real estate ownership is typically represented by a Deed which specifies the legal owner's title. After a death, a deed is used as the legal document to transfer titles from the deceased to another person. This process may require probate, depending on state law, or the property ownership structure (for example, if the property was owned jointly).
Vehicles and Personal Property: Similar to real estate, vehicles and personal property also have titles that establish ownership. After the owner's death, the transfer of these titles may be occur during probate or handled through procedures established by state laws.
Account and Financial Titles: Financial assets, such as bank accounts, stocks, and bonds, may have account titles or ownership designations. After a death, the titles of these financial assets may need to be updated to reflect the new owner.
The concept of title is crucial for identifying ownership, transferring assets, and ensuring that assets are distributed according to the deceased person's wishes or applicable state law.
During probate, it's helpful to work with an Estate Attorney or Probate Attorney to ensure that titles are appropriately managed and that assets are transferred to the rightful heirs or beneficiaries.