How is Real Estate Handled in an Estate?

What Will Happen to a House or Other Real Property That is Owned by a Parent or Close Relative When They die in New Jersey?

As with all things legal, the answer is “it depends.”

The first thing it depends upon is how the property is titled on the deed. There are four primary ways to title a home or other real property in New Jersey:

  • 1) Sole ownership (titled only in the decedent’s name);
  • 2) tenancy-by-the entirety (a unique form of ownership exclusive to a husband and wife);
  • 3) joint tenants with rights of survivorship (sometimes you will see the initials “JTWROS); and
  • 4) tenancy-in-common.

The New Jersey estate attorneys at Goldstein Law Group are available to assist you in determining how the property is titled, and what needs to be done to transfer title upon death of the owner. Here is a description of each form of ownership and what can happen.

Sole Ownership

If the property is owned solely by the deceased person, title will pass according to the decedent’s Will or, if none exists, to the deceased person’s surviving next-of-kin pursuant to the laws of intestacy in New Jersey. If the heir or heirs do not wish to take title to the property, the Executor or Administrator is authorized to sell the property to a third party. Selling property from an Estate requires additional considerations not present in traditional home sales from a Seller to a Buyer. The New Jersey estate attorneys of Goldstein Law Group can prepare the necessary documents and guide the Executor or Administrator through the real estate process.


When a married couple purchases or otherwise takes title to a home together – during their marriage, the Deed will often recite they are taking title as husband and wife. This creates a “tenancy-by-the-entirety” in which each person takes title jointly with the others. So long as the parties remain married at the time one spouse dies, title to the property will automatically pass to the surviving spouse, regardless of what a Will may say.

Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship

A Joint Tenancy is another form of joint ownership which is available even if the parties are not married. When the deed recites that two parties own the property as Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship, title to the property will automatically pass to the surviving owner upon death of the other, regardless of what a Will may say.


In a Tenancy-in-Common, two or more parties own individual shares of the property. A Tenancy-in-Common exists whenever the parties are not married, and the deed does not recite Joint Tenancy. Unlike Tenancy-by-the-Entirety and Joint Tenancy, title to the property does not automatically pass to the remaining co-owners upon any owner’s death.

Instead, the deceased owner’s share passes to their Estate, and will be disposed of by the decedent’s Will or, if none exists, passes to their spouse or surviving next-of-kin. The New Jersey estate lawyers at Goldstein Law Group can prepare the necessary deed for the Executor or Administrator to transfer title.

If the deceased person’s heir does not want to inherit a share of the house, they can instead sell their share to the remaining co-owners or, if agreement cannot be reached, it may be necessary to sell the entire property to a third party with each owner receiving their respective share of the sale proceeds. The New Jersey estate lawyers of Goldstein Law Group can assist the Executor in selling the property and distributing the proceeds.

How do I Hire an Attorney to Help Me Transfer Real Estate From a Deceased Loved One in New Jersey?

The attorneys at Goldstein Law Group have decades of combined experience assisting New Jersey residents with a myriad of estate administration and real estate issues, including drafting attorney review letters, deeds, and other necessary closing documents, and we are here to help you when a loved one has passed. To schedule an appointment to speak to one of our knowledgeable New Jersey estate attorneys, call us at 732-967-6777 and ask for a Free 10 Minute Case Evaluation*. We represent clients in Old Bridge, Monmouth County, and the surrounding area.

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