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How are House Deeds Transferred on the Death of a Parent?

When a parent passes, the executor and the children of the deceased may face several challenges while liquidating the assets of the estate. While some aspects can be somewhat perplexing, an experienced estate attorney will help to smooth the way.

In many instances, the home of the parent may be the largest asset, one that is relatively illiquid and requires special handling. Some assets transfer outside of probate or court involvement, but the transfer of real estate is not always simple.

house deeds

In New Jersey, how the deed is titled will determine how the property can be transferred. The county recorder’s office will have a copy of the deed for your review.

Transferring the Deed According to a Will

  • Sole Ownership

If the property was held solely in the decedent parent’s name, the property will go through probate before transferring to the heir or heirs who are designated in the will.

  • Joint Tenancy

If the decedent owned the house in joint tenancy or tenancy by entirety, the surviving spouse or joint owner becomes the owner of the property automatically. A new deed is not required, although a survivor may still want one. When the house is sold, if a new deed hasn’t’ been done, all that is needed to transfer the property is the presentation of the deed to the buyer’s title company.

  • Without Joint Tenancy

If the will specifies a person or persons to whom legal ownership of the property should pass a new deed is required.

  • In Trust

A Will may leave a property to a variety of trusts. If that is the case a new deed would be prepared by the executor of the estate to the trustee of the trust and it would be recorded in the county clerk’s office.

  • Fiduciary Authority

Unless the will specifies another disposition, the executor has the right to dispose of the property at a public or private sale.

In each instance, you should seek the advice and representation of an experienced estate attorney to ensure that the property will be handled properly.

What Happens to the Property If There is No Will?

In cases when no will exists and the deceased is the only owner on the deed, different scenarios need to be considered to determine who will become the owner of the real estate.

A person who dies without a will is legally termed “intestate.” Each state has “intestacy laws” that determine who will receive assets if this happens.

Priority is determined by individual state succession rules, such as:

  • If the deceased was married and has no children from a previous marriage, the spouse will receive the property, and a new deed will be written.
  • If the deceased is married and had children from a prior marriage, the property will be divided between the spouse will and the offspring in different proportions depending on the state where the person died.
  • If the deceased was not married, ownership of the property passes to all children in equal parts.

Beyond this, the property may be awarded to extended family members. If none are identified, the state itself may take ownership.

Working with a Reputable Estate Lawyer

As noted, the transfer of a house deed following the death of a parent can be simple and direct or extremely complex, depending on the arrangements the parent may have made.

An updated will simplifies the probate process considerably and will avoid unforeseen circumstances.

As a parent, you should work with a qualified estate attorney to make your wishes clear and to ensure your assets and home are bequeathed as you wish.

As the child of an aging parent, you should discuss these matters jointly and consult with an estate attorney to ensure the transfer of the deed is clear.

Giuditta Estate Law Office

In the Westfield NJ area, contact the Law Office of Nicholas A. Giuditta III, a New Jersey Estate Lawyer, to discuss your estate matters and to help guide you through the probate process. The firm is experienced in helping clients establish their estate plans while also guiding executors in the settlement of estates.

To schedule a consultation to discuss your estate matters, visit the Giuditta Law Office website, or phone 1-908-232-0099.