When a wife’s husband dies, she must remove his name from the deed in order to keep the real estate title clear. The widow must determine how the deed is titled, who are the legal heirs of the deceased husband's interest and whether or not the decedent had a will in order to determine the procedure of removing a deceased husband’s name off a real estate title.
Get a Copy of the Deed
Determine the type of ownership the couple held on the deed. The deed can be owned as tenants by entirety, joint tenants with rights of survivorship or tenants in common. If the deed is jointly owned as tenants by entirety or joint tenants with rights of survivorship, the widow becomes the full owner of the property upon her husband's death. The widow is not required to file a corrective deed because the transfer is automatic, but removing the husband's name will ensure the title is free from defect. If the deed is owned as tenants in common, the husband's interest will pass to his legally entitled heirs.
Transferring Property Interest to the Wife
Get a blank quit claim deed or warranty deed naming the wife as the sole owner. The wife must use the same type of deed that was used to convey the title to her and her deceased husband. If you cannot ensure the property is free from claims or defects, complete a quit claim deed. If title can be conveyed with the guarantee that no other person has the rights or claims of ownership to the property, then complete a warranty deed. Review the deed to make sure it is complete and correct.
Sign the deed in front of a notary to make sure the document is legally binding and effective. Record the deed and death certificate with the county recorder in which the property is located. Once the documents are filed, the deceased husband's name will be removed from the title, and the widow will be listed as the sole property owner on the deed. If the widow does not remove the husband's name from the deed, she will be required to present a certified death certificate with the deed when she wishes to sell the property.
Transfer Property Interest to Heirs
Obtain the deceased husband’s last will and testament. If you cannot find one, it may or may not be found in the county records. The will names the legal heirs of the interest in the property's title. If the husband did not leave a will, the probate judge will assign the ownership to the next of kin – typically the remaining spouse – as permitted by state law.
Determine if the decedent’s estate will go through an informal probate process or a formal probate process. If the entire estate is worth less than the amount dictated by the state laws, including cash, stocks, bonds, vehicles, homes, land and so forth, then the title can be converted without a court hearing as an informal probate. If the estate's value is larger than the stated amount, a formal probate process is required. The title is presented before a judge, who will grant the ownership to the rightful heirs.
Obtain and complete the letters of administration, an affidavit of heirship or affidavit of succession and a personal representative form or an executor’s deed from the county probate courts. These documents are required for both an informal and informal probate process, and must be notarized before they will be accepted by the courts. File the documents with the probate courts. If the estate qualifies for an informal probate, the administrative clerk will stamp the documents, giving the heirs the right to claim the ownership of the interest in the deed. If the estate must go through a formal probate, the clerk will accept the documents for the judge to review, and will issue a date to appear before the judge. The husband's name will remain on the deed until the judge grants his interest to the rightful legal heirs as determined at the court hearing.
Final Steps and Considerations
Attend court hearings, if required. An informal probate process does not require a court hearing. A formal probate requires a judge to grant ownership of property to heirs only after careful consideration. Only the judge can stamp the court documents to grant the heirs the right to claim co-ownership of the property. You will have to complete a blank deed to remove the deceased husbands' name and replace it with the names of the heirs as listed on the stamped documents received from the court. The heirs will co-own the property with the widow, so do not remove her name. The widow and all of the heirs must sign and notarize the new deed.
If all heirs agree to allow a person who did not inherit the property to take title, file a quit claim deed granting ownership to that person after the property has been deeded to the legal heirs.