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Inheriting a House: How to Change a Deed When You Inherit Property

Did you inherit a house? You're going to need to change the property deed to include your name. T&W explains how to change a deed when you inherit a house.

Inheriting a house through a loved one’s Trust or Will can be an awesome gift. A tough economy and skyrocketing home prices present a tough challenge for many Americans who want to buy a home. Inheriting a piece of real property can be an incredible advantage, and frankly, a huge relief.

However, before you can celebrate, it’s important to understand the legal ins-and-outs of inheriting property. In particular, you need to make sure to change the deed of the house you just inherited so that you can truly call it your own. Not sure what that means, or what it entails? Not to worry! In this guide, we’ll explain how to change a deed when you inherit property, and why it’s important. 

What Does It Mean to be on the Deed of a House?

Being on the deed of a house means that you are the legal and rightful owner. A house deed is a legal document that is used to transfer the ownership of real property from one person to another. (Real property includes a house and the land that it sits on.) The transfer of ownership could be between a buyer and a seller. It can also be between a grantor to their beneficiary. 

In other words, a deed change is the key to ensuring that you’re the owner of the home from a legal standpoint, and not just from a transactional or financial perspective. If your parent or grandparent decides to gift their home to you, their Will, Trust or probate court decision is not enough. You must take the extra step of ensuring the deed is changed to make sure you complete the process of inheriting the home. Otherwise, the home still technically belongs to your loved one’s estate, even if you are living in it. This can cause problems down the line.

Being on the deed of a property is important because it proves that you have the legal right, as the owner of the property, to take actions related to that property. For example, it gives you the right to sell the property one day. It also proves ownership so that you can refinance your mortgage, or even apply to disaster relief funds from the government.

Although this may seem like a matter-of-course aspect of homeownership, it’s not necessarily straightforward for everyone. Some heirs find themselves in uncharted territory, such as when they encounter probate issues or issues with the deed itself. 

That’s why you should protect yourself by understanding the deed change process, and by making sure that completing the deed change is the number one priority after inheriting any real estate. We’ll explain how to go about that next.

How to Change a Deed When Inheriting a House

If you inherit a house, changing the deed is one of the first things you’ll want to do. It’s an important step that ensures your name is on the deed and proves your legal entitlement to the property moving forward. Here’s a step by step guide that breaks down this process.

Step 1: Get a Copy of the Probated Will

Before you can change the deed on the inherited house, you must collect some vital documents and information. The first document you want to obtain is a copy of your loved one’s Will that has been probated by the court. 

The person who wrote the Will should have included a statement that they bequeath the property to you upon their passing, including a full description of the property in question. 

Most states will require proof that the Will has been probated before you can change the deed. 

Step 2: Confirm the Nature of Property Ownership

Next, find out the nature of ownership on this particular property. Some owners might choose to set up a transfer-on-death deed before their passing. This deeds the property to you automatically upon their death, and serves as your property deed used in conjunction with a copy of the death certificate. 

Otherwise, a property is typically jointly-owned or single-owner. If the property was owned by one person, or more specifically there is only one person on the deed, then there should be no complications moving forward.

However, if the property was jointly-owned, then you will need to take some extra steps. This means that there are two people on the deed, and upon the passing of one of those people, the deed belongs to the surviving owner. You must confirm that you’re actually eligible to inherit the property, even if it was bequeathed to you in a Will. The probate court should discover any possible issues and make a decision. 

Step 3: Get a Certified Copy of the Death Certificate

With any type of deed, you will need to obtain proper proof that the previous owner of the home has passed away. You will need a copy of their death certificate to submit along with the copy of the new deed, as required by your county’s administrative services.

Step 4: Draft a New Deed that Names You as the Property Owner

Once you’ve collected all the necessary information and documents, it’s time to draft a new deed. In this deed, spell out your full legal name and address, plus the full legal name and address of your loved one who passed away.

You’ll also need to include the parcel and a detailed description of the property in question (the property you inherited.) Be sure to name any co-owners on this new deed if you co-inherited the property with anyone else in your property.

You typically are not required to work with an attorney to draft up a deed, although you may want to consult one. Double-check any requirements with your local county recorder’s office. 

If you’re not sure how to draft a new deed, you can look up templates and examples online. Your local county may even provide a blank template.

Step 5: Sign the Deed

After your deed has been drafted, you’ll need to take a couple more steps to finalize it. The first step is to sign it. However, don’t sign it just yet. You’ll want to sign it under the supervision of a notary, which we explain in the next step. 

Step 6: Have the New Deed Notarized

Schedule a meeting with a notary to have your deed notarized. This person will verify your identification to make sure that the signing of the deed is legitimate, and that you are who you claim to be.

The notary will then instruct you to sign the document in their presence. Once the notary has verified your identification, the document, and your signature, they will then provide their notary seal.

This is common practice for most legal documents to take effect.

Step 7: Deliver the New Deed

Finally, it’s time to submit your deed and make it official! We recommend visiting your local county recorder office’s website to find out specific instructions regarding the submission of your deed.

Typically, you will be required to submit additional evidentiary documents, such as a copy of the death certificate and the probated Will. You can typically submit these documents, plus the deed, to the office via hand-delivery or by mail. You’ll also be required to pay a filing fee in person or include a check if you’re sending your materials in by mail.

Next: Update Your Estate Plan to Include Your New Property

Inheriting property is a great thing, but make sure to take the correct legal steps before you truly call it your own. In this case, it’s making sure your name is on the deed. Your loved one would have bequeathed the property to you in their Will, but as long as their name remains on the deed, you can’t call yourself the legal owner of the home. Luckily, changing a deed after inheriting a house isn’t too difficult of a process. It’s all a matter of collecting the necessary documents and submitting them to the correct local government office. Once you’ve done that, you can rest assured that the home is truly your own.

If you do inherit a property, don’t forget to update your estate plan! Buying, selling, or inheriting a house are all triggering life events that affect your personal mix of property, and the property that you can leave to loved ones yourself. If you need any assistance updating or setting up an estate plan, we’re here to help! Set up a Will and Trust with Trust & Will today!

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