||The Real Estate Adviser
Inherit property? Get clear
title in court
My husband died in 2002. I did not probate the will, as I am the only
beneficiary. We never had his home put in both of our names. I am
paying the property taxes but cannot sell the home, although the will
allows me to, because I cannot have the title placed in my name. What
do I do?
Dear Mrs. T.,
Fret not, because you said the magic words, "The
will allows me to."
Assuming that your late husband's
will is validly executed, the road to getting that title placed
in your name should not be a rocky one. However, the trip itself
may take a little longer than you'd probably prefer, particularly
if you're under immediate financial pressure to sell.
Some well-meaning person obviously
told you, and rightfully, that you couldn't sell the home without
clear title. But he or she didn't think to mention, or didn't know,
that this problem is routinely rectifiable in probate court.
The reasons you can't sell right
now are sound, however. It isn't that you aren't trustworthy, Mrs.
T. Even if you're holding a seemingly airtight will, potential buyers
of your home have no legal assurance that the place is actually
yours to sell, explains Greg Matus, an estate-planning and probate
attorney with San Diego Law Firm.
For all they know, there could
be other wills out there that were penned by your husband, or other
would-be heirs who may step forth to claim the property. And that
would create a sorry legal mess. Hence, you have to get a legal
paper that says you are the one and only rightful owner.
Depending on which state you're
living in, the amount of time these types of cases take to be heard
and processed will vary. In California and some other states, you
can take an express route to resolution by having your entitlement
action go to a simple hearing, a process that usually takes about
60 days in most cut-and-dried cases, says Matus. In other states,
you'll have to go through full-blown probate court, which could
take, unfortunately, about a year.
Of course, you'll have to retain
the services of an attorney, ideally a probate specialist, to determine
the best route and help you present your evidence in civil court.
And if I read you right, Mrs. T.,
there are no children or other relatives who might have any reason
to believe they should get a share of the proceeds. If there were,
you and your attorney would have to legally notify them of the hearing
I hope you'll soon have that
title free and clear.
As always, good luck.
-- Posted: Jan. 31, 2004