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How Do I Transfer Property in My Mom’s Name After Her Death?

When a loved one passes away, the emotional rollercoaster you experience is compounded by the paperwork and legal formalities that need to be finalized. Transferring property that once belonged to your parent into your name is a common challenge that arises at this time. The way you transfer property after the death of a loved one depends on whether the assets are probate or non-probate and the type of property ownership involved.

Probate assets

Probate assets can only be transferred into the names of the beneficiaries following a court-supervised probate process in New York’s Surrogate’s Court. These assets include:

  • Solely owned property, such as a bank or investment account in an individual's name
  • Property owned as tenant in common (jointly owned property without any right of survivorship), allowing two or more individuals to own a specific percentage of the property in question
  • Monies owed to the decedent before death but paid after death, such as a last paycheck

When the owner of these assets passes away, the assets are distributed according to the provisions of the will.

Non-probate assets

Non-probate assets, on the other hand, are transferred directly when the owner dies:

  • Property owned jointly with rights of survivorship. This type of joint ownership allows two or more parties to share ownership in such a way as to ensure that when one party passes away, the other owner(s) take title to the decedent's share in the property.
  • Assets in a revocable or irrevocable trust
  • Monies in bank accounts held jointly
  • Life insurance and retirement accounts that name a beneficiary

Though no court procedures are required to effect changes in ownership in such cases, paperwork needs to be filed with the relevant public records office to complete the transfers. In cases of joint ownership, for example, the property deed, the decedent’s death certificate and proof of the beneficiary’s identity are required before a piece of real estate is transferred to the surviving owner.

Upon the death of a loved one, contact a New York elder law attorney to help you identify the type of property you are dealing with and to assist with navigating the formalities of its transfer.

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