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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. Here
are some general guidelines to help you:
- 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,
If the property does not have a title or a paper stating how it is owned, you need
to determine ownership. Typical examples of this kind of property are household
furnishings, jewelry, clothes, mementos, and other personal property. Here are 2
ways this kind of property might be owned:
- Community Property is the name for property in Arizona that a husband and wife acquire
during marriage. Community property is generally owned by both spouses, unless they
specifically agreed differently. When either spouse dies, the surviving spouse owns
the community property of both spouses.
- Separate property is the name for property acquired before marriage, or during the
marriage as a gift or inheritance. Any property bought during marriage with separate
property, and kept as separate property, is not community property. When a person
dies, separate property will pass on to others according to how title to the property
is held, like joint tenancy or payable on death to a beneficiary, or according to
any other legal documents, like a will, or a trust, or according to the laws of