OK, here it is, the best estate planning advice I can give, and all that you really need to know to protect you and your loved ones - talk to an estate planning attorney. Yes, it's really that simple, but in this day and age of the internet it seems that there are many people who believe that they can get the answer to any question, even a legal question, online, for free, and without any strings attached.
State Laws Rule Estate Planning, Probate, and Estate and Trust Settlement
The problem with relying on the internet in the estate planning, probate, and estate and trust settlement context is that each and every situation is unique. Couple this with the unique laws of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and there is only a very slim chance that you will find the exact answer to your specific legal question in cyberspace.
I know that this is not the advice you want to hear - you just want a "simple answer" to your "simple question," right? Unfortunately there are never really any simple answers when it comes to legal advice - yes, that's what you're asking for, free legal advice. Even the most basic question will require the legal expertise of an estate planning attorney who has knowledge of the laws of your state or the state where you own real estate, or the laws of the state where your loved one died or owned real estate. And no attorney I know is willing to just give away legal advice without a valid attorney-client relationship in place.
Don't Be Afraid to Seek the Advice of an Estate Planning Attorney
OK, so you're worried about how much it will cost for you to speak with an estate planning attorney. If you have limited finances, then be upfront about this when you make an appointment. Fortunately many questions can be answered in short order while others may take an hour or so for a meeting and then a few more for research. Some estate planning attorneys even offer free initial consultations so that they can determine exactly what you need and then give you a fixed fee or a fee estimate for the actual legal work involved.
The bottom line - when you seek the advice of an estate planning attorney, you will get the exact answer to your specific question, which will give you peace of mind and money well spent.