When someone passes away, a series of issues start to compile. Besides the high emotions running there are also legal issues to worry about. Did the loved one do their estate planning documents while they were still alive? Is there a Will and Beneficiary Deed in order? If not, you may have a nightmare on your hands.

Say for instance, your father passed away and your older sister is not able to take care of the house your father lived in. He didn’t prepare a Beneficiary Deed or any other Estate Planning documents; he had just stated that he wanted the house to go to all three of you kids. Who gets the house officially? How does your sister get taken care of?

Many people have the misconception that a simple will is enough. It is not. A will simply states wishes and transfers personal property. There is a full set of Estate Planning documents that need to be completed to ensure that property is distributed per the person who has passed a way’s wishes. For a house, a beneficiary deed will help tremendously. If there is a beneficiary deed recorded prior to a person passing, whoever is listed, as the beneficiary will be able to obtain ownership based on that deed.

If there is not a beneficiary deed or other estate planning documents regarding the house, a probate case might need to be opened. Typically, without a will, the ownership would go according to family succession. Oldest children, spouse, etc. In the case above, if the older sister is unable to care for herself or the home, you may also want to obtain both guardianship and conservatorship of both her and the estate.

Before making any major moves after a loved one has passed away, the best thing to do is to speak to an attorney about your personal specific situation. In some cases, a probate case is needed, and in others, no legal action is needed at all. Only an experienced attorney will be able to decipher your situation.