When planning for the future an estate, you'll want a clear understanding of how property ownership and transference works. Depending on how a real estate property is titled—sole or joint ownership—it might pass to beneficiaries or move into probate, which is the process of establishing the validity of a will. These basics, along with the help of an attorney, will help you ensure your affairs are in order. 

What Is Sole Ownership?

With sole ownership, a property is owned by the deceased person alone. In this case, the property will go through probate to be transferred into the name of the inheritor. The inheritor will either be determined by the will or, in cases where there’s no will, the state. 

The state determines who inherits property through intestate succession laws. Usually, if there’s a surviving spouse, they’ll inherit most or, if there are no children, all of the property. If the deceased is without a surviving spouse or children, distant relatives will inherit the property. In rare cases, when no family can be found, the state inherits the property.

What Is Joint Ownership?

attorneyJoint ownership comes in different forms. If a deed states “joint ownership with right of survivorship,” that means that the surviving co-owner of the property now becomes the sole owner. 

However, joint ownership without the right of survivorship is called tenants in common. In these cases, two or more owners do not own equal percentages of the property and may pass on their shares, to whomever they chose, through their wills.

What Is Community Property?

Community property is another type of joint property for married couples. It’s recognized in 9 states, including Arizona, California, and Nevada. This type of property is owned by the couple together. 

In Arizona, for instance, community property ownership comes with survivorship rights. Thus spouses are entitled to leave their 50% ownership to any survivor they choose, such as grandchildren. However, if they fail to opt for survivorship rights, the property will go to the surviving spouse. 

How Is Property Handled After Death?

After someone passes, their property is typically put in one of two categories, which are probate or non-probate. Probate assets include sole ownership property and tenants in common property. Basically, attorneys will need to begin a probate process to transfer assets from the deceased’s name to the beneficiary’s. 

Non-probate assets include those owned jointly with rights of survivorship, community property, and assets where inheritors are named in the will. These assets don’t go through probate because there are already measures to move assets to inheritors. Otherwise, the inheritors take control through survivorship laws.


Be prepared for whatever is ahead with the help of a skilled attorney at Sippel Law Firm PLLC in Kingman, AZ.  For over 35 years, they’ve helped residents with legal matters, including wills and trusts, and ensured the best possible results. Mark Sippel is knowledgeable, compassionate, and dedicated to understanding every detail of your case. Call (928) 753-2889 for legal advice or read about them online