Under South Dakota law, there are a variety of ways to title property. Title is the method in which property is owned. How property is titled impacts the drafting of your estate plan. In South Dakota, title is commonly held in three different ways: sole ownership, joint tenancy, and tenancy in common. This article will examine sole ownership.
The basic principle of sole ownership is that the property is owned by a single individual. The sole owner may use the property as he pleases and can distribute it to whomever he wants at his death through his will. However, if the sole owner dies intestate (without a will) the property will be distributed according to South Dakota's laws of intestate succession. The solely-owned property will be included in the gross estate and will continue through the probate process until title has been cleared for the heirs. If the sole owner has a will and appoints a personal representative, the personal representative will be responsible for distributing the property according to the will. However, if the sole owner dies without a will, the estate will have to wait until a personal representative is appointed by the Court.