Ask The Law Mother: What Happens to Your House if You Die Without a Will?

A question from Cindy in McKinney:

“My mom recently passed away. Her only real asset was the house I grew up in. The house has been paid off for decades and I was her only child. How do I sell the house? I’ve looked through her papers and didn’t come across a will (not surprising, God love her she wasn’t the most organized person in the world). I’m worried if I just list the house and try to sell it, a title company ask for a will.”

My sincerest condolences Cindy. No matter how old you are, losing a parent is a tough thing.

Your mom died without a will. I’m assuming the deed to the house doesn’t have joint tenancy with survivorship language (if you’re not sure, you can get a copy of the deed from the county clerk in the county in which the property was located).

Before you can sell the house, you need to clear title by resolving the heirship issue.

In Texas, this is a two-step process.

Step one is to prepare an Affidavit of Heirship. The Affidavit of Heirship must be signed and sworn to before a notary public by a person who knew your mom and her family history. Think someone who was not related to your mom but knew her well, like an old friend or a long-time neighbor. Can’t find an old friend or neighbor? A relative can also sign the form if they won’t benefit financially from the sale of the house.

You need to find two people who knew your mom, because each person needs to sign the Affidavit of Heirship.

Step two is to prepare a deed that transfers title to the house to you. Both the Affidavit of Heirship and the new deed need to be filed in the real property records of the county in which the property is located. Once these documents have been filed, you can sell the house.

Sound complicated? It can be, especially when there are many heirs, multiple marriages, or multiple generations owning the house and dying without wills. Be sure to consult with a probate attorney or a title company to make sure you clear title properly.

Leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

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Copyright © 2018 by Siobhán Fitzpatrick Kratovil. All Rights Reserved.

 

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