What Happens to Your Real Estate When You Die?

How Real Property passes at the owner’s death

For most people, their home is the largest asset in their estate.  The way a principle residence passes after death depends on how it is titled during the owner’s lifetime.  The following are several ways that real property passes at death:

real estate and wills

  • If you are married and own the property as tenancy by the entirety with your spouse, the property passes to your spouse automatically at your death.
  • For unmarried couples, a similar type of home ownership is joint tenancy with rights of survivorship. If one partner dies, the other partner automatically inherits the house.
  • A third type of joint home ownership is tenancy in common. Both parties own a share of the property. If one party dies, the share of the deceased owner passes under that person’s Will or goes to the deceased person’s heirs if he dies without a Will.
  • A fourth type of home ownership is ownership by a trust. If title to a residence has been transferred to a trust during the owner’s life, the trust owns the real property and the terms of the trust determine what happens at the trust grantor’s death.
  • If you are the sole owner of your real property, your Will states who inherits your real property. If you die without a Will, the property passes to your closest heirs as determined by Tennessee law.

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