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Selling Parents' Home After Their Death

Ask the Real Estate Lawyer: Real Estate Law Q&A

REM #LAW 651

By Ilyce R. Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin

Summary: A reader is planning to sell their parents' home many years after their death. There was no will and the estate has never been through probate. Sam and Ilyce discuss the children's options.

Q: We have a house that my parents owned.
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They both died many years ago, my father before my mother. My sister has been living in the house ever since they died.

Now we want to do something with the house, but the house is still in our parents’ names. There has never been probate for either of our parents. Our parents had no will. All of the parties that have an interest in the home are in agreement as to what to do with it.

What is the easiest way for me to get the house into my name?

A: Part of the answer depends on where you live, information that you didn’t provide in your email.

That said, in some states you may have to get approval by the court to transfer title of the home to you. In other states, you may be able to convey title to you by having the necessary documentation to prove that all of the possible parties that may have an interest in the home have approved of the transfer of title to you.

In some states, an attorney or a title insurance company can assist in the paper work to transfer title to you. In some cases, you can purchase title insurance to insure that upon the transfer from your parents name to you, the transfer meets the title companies’ requirements and you are insured against a loss in case some unknown relative stakes a claim in the home.

In these states, all of the family members that could have an interest in the home would sign a deed transferring title to you.

While the home may have been the only asset that your parents had, someone should have made sure that all of your parent’s debts and tax liabilities were paid. If someone determined that no money was owed to the IRS for income taxes or estate taxes, and that nothing was owed to your state’s department of revenue and to other creditors, then it should not be difficult to transfer title to the home from your parents to you.

If you must go to court, try to find an attorney who specializes in the area of probate law. The attorney will most likely have to open up a file for your mother, the last of your parents to die. If your parents did not hold title to the home as joint tenant with rights of survivorship, the attorney will have to open up a file for each of your parents and probate each of their estates. Once the file has been probated, with the consent of all family members, the attorney would have to obtain a court order allowing the home to be transferred to your name.

If you are in a state that does not generally use real estate attorneys for residential closing, I would first stop by a local title insurance company and seek some assistance. If you are in a state that generally uses real estate attorneys in real estate transactions, I would hire one that has had experience in you sort of a case.

Finally, if you find out that you are in a state in which you must open probate to change the title, you will need to find an attorney that handles probate matters.

Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Ilyce R. Glink’s latest book is 50 Simple Steps You Can Take To Sell Your Home Faster and For More Money In Any Market. If you have questions for them, write: Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, IL 60022 or contact them through Ilyce’s website




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