What happens to jointly owned real estate if one of the co-owner’s dies?

UPDATED: Jun 1, 2011

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What happens to jointly owned real estate if one of the co-owner’s dies?

My middle brother passed away 3 months ago. His divorce was final last year. He and his ex-wife have a 13 year old son and owned 2 homes. They were living in AZ but my brother’s job had him stationed in TX. My brother and another brother and myself all owned our deceased parents home, which we rent. Now since my middle brother is deceased, what happens with our parents home, does it revert to the 2 of us? Ex-sister-in-law will become conservator for her son. Is son is entitled to everything? My brother was financially well set. What are our legal rights? Also, can his ex-wife still serve as the executor of his estate, if he didn’t update his Will or trust since the divorce?

Asked on June 1, 2011 under Estate Planning, California


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss.  You have asked a lot of questions here so I will try and do my best to give guidance on all your concerns.  First as to the house you won with your brothers.  You need to read the deed.  Does it say joint tenants with "rights of survivorship" or just joint tenants (or tenants in common in some states)?  It is the right of survivorship that matters.  If it says that then your brother's interest passed to you and your other brother equally upon his death.  If it did not then it is part of your brother's estate.  As for the Will, generally speaking gifts to an ex-spouse in a will are no longer valid unless the will specifically says the gifts should be valid, even in the event of divorce. An ex-spouse can inherit, but the intent to provide for the ex-spouse must be clearly stated in the will. AS for her being appointed the personal representative, she can be unless challenged.  You need some legal; help from someone that can read the documents in question.  Good luck. 

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