Title to Property

When a person dies, you need to know how title to the property was held by the person to know who gets it at death. Some general guidelines:

Joint tenancy is property that is held in the names of 2 or more people as joint tenants with a right of survivorship. This means that when any joint tenant dies, the survivors automatically own the share of the person who died. Examples of this kind of ownership can include deeds to houses, titles to vehicles, government bonds, and bank accounts.

Property payable on death to a named beneficiary goes to the beneficiary when the person dies. Examples of this are life insurance policies and some retirement funds.

Many kinds of property have the type of ownership written right on the legal document. Deeds to houses, titles to motor vehicles, bank accounts, retirement plans, and government bonds usually list the names of the owners and how the property is owned — for example, as joint tenancy, as payable on death to a certain beneficiary, etc.

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