January 2016 Probate My mother/father just died and we owned a piece of property titled in both of our names. Do I automatically own it now? It depends. You probably should show the deed to an attorney. If the title on the deed reads "JTWROS" or "Joint Tenants With Right of Survivorship", then the property might not have to go through probate. However, without those exact words, the property doesn't automatically transfer to the surviving party(ies) on the deed. Wills What is a living will? Should I have one? A Living Will gives instructions to your family and physicians on whether you wish to be medically treated if you are ever in a physical condition in which there is no hope of recovering. It allows you to control decisions relating to your own medical care, including the decision to have life-sustaining procedures withheld or withdrawn in a situation in which you might be diagnosed as having a terminal and irreversible condition. The law is very specific as to the form and contents required of a valid living will. It is wise to consult an attorney to ensure that your living will is proper. Whether you should have a living will is a very personal decision and you may wish to discuss this decision with your physician and an attorney. How can I contest a will? Contesting a will is a very serious matter and involves a judicial proceeding. There are specific laws addressing the causes of action on which one would rely to contest a will. If you believe there are reasons a will should be contested which involve you personally, you should contact an attorney to determine whether you should file a legal proceeding. What is a power of attorney? Do I need one? A Power of Attorney is given by executing a document in a form required by statute. It is the act of one person (principal) authorizing another person or persons (agent(s)) to act on his/her behalf in such matters involving, for example, the purchase or sale of property or managing financial affairs. The Power of Attorney can be limited to specific actions or can convey the authority to act on all matters affecting the person giving the authority. It can be limited in time such that the authority may be exercised only in times of in which the principal is physically and/or mentally unable to handle personal matters on his/her own. You should discuss the decision to execute a Power of Attorney with an attorney to determine your needs. What happens when someone dies without a will? Depending on the state, laws on inheritance can be complicated and may vary. In some states what happens when a person dies without a will, which is called "intestate", can depend on the size of the person's estate; whether the person left a spouse and/children and/or siblings and/or parents etc..., along with other factors which may affect the distribution of the estate. If you are unsure of the laws concerning intestate in your state you should contact an attorney to discuss the laws which may apply to you.