Boston Homes
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Selling a home after one spouse dies



Q: My husband died several months ago. I have decided to sell our home, which we paid off and have no mortgage. His name was on the deed. Do I need to remove his name in order for me to sell the home?


A: Depending on how you and your husband owned the home, most likely, no.


There are a couple of ways people can own a home jointly. The most common way for couples to own property together is as joint tenancy with rights of survivorship. This allows the ownership interest in the home to pass from one owner to the other automatically upon death. Let’s assume you and your husband owned the home in this manner. Even though your husband has died, the paperwork on the home will still have his name on it, but you are automatically able to inherit his share of the home.


When the time comes to sell the home and you have a buyer, you will sign the contract as the sole owner of the property. As the closing approaches, your attorney will draft documents for you to sign. Those documents will list you as the sole owner of the property and the person handling those documents will have you sign the transfer paperwork.


The title company or settlement agent may also want a copy of your husband’s death certificate. If you decide to keep the home and want to transfer the title to your name, your attorney can record documents to this effect. (There will likely be recording fees, as well as attorney fees for this service.)


In summary, the process of selling real estate after an owner dies is not very complicated for couples who own property as joint tenants with right of survivorship.


Not so for couples who own property together as tenants in common. Tenants in common each own a specific percentage of the home, for example, 50 percent, or 25 percent or some other percentage. When one co-owner dies, the other co-owner(s) does not automatically get the other’s share. The disposition of assets depends on the deceased’s will, or if there is no will, a probate court decides, which can be expensive and time consuming.


Linda Goodspeed is a longtime real estate writer and author of “In and out of Darkness.” Email her at: