What Happens If My Spouse Passes Away And They Are On The Title?
The death of a spouse is an event that often requires the surviving member of the relationship a lot of business to take care of, unfortunately, on top of the grief from losing a loved one. Though one finding oneself in this situation is comparatively common, that certainly does not mean that it is easy. At Eagle Gate Title, we have extensive experience helping Southern Utah folks in this scenario. We know that dealing with a St George title is likely the last thing that anyone wants to be doing in the midst of a tragedy so we want to do everything we can to help and relieve however many burdens as possible. Here is some important information to understand if you or someone you know has a recently deceased spouse on a St George title.
Rights of Survivorship
There are different ways that a married couple can own property together. One of those ways is as joint tenants with rights of survivorship. This means that in the event of death, the St George title belongs to the living spouse. They become the sole owner. Without rights of survivorship in place, the property rights are divided in half; half to the estate of the deceased and half to the living spouse. In this scenario, hopefully there is a will and testament in place for the deceased that has been probated, otherwise the living spouse may not be able to obtain the St George title immediately or (in some cases) state law will determine the outcome.
Some married couples have joint title ownership in the following way: one spouse has a life estate in the property and the other has fee simple interest in it, meaning that that spouse owns the St George title outright. To further explain, perhaps one member of the relationship has kept a life estate for themselves and deeded to their spouse their property interest, or maybe their spouse has deeded a life estate interest to them for property that they previously owned. Whichever it may be in any given circumstance, a person who owns a life estate in the property of their deceased spouse, they only have the right to live there (or posses it) until their own death.
In a situation where the husband passes away and the wife owns the life estate, the children may have the St George title passed to them but would require a court action to terminate their mother’s ownership. In most cases, a widow cannot mortgage/lease the property or otherwise sell any rights whatsoever unless the life estate that she holds is what is called an enhanced life estate. Even if that is the case, she must live in a state where that is recognized. If the widow desires full selling power until the time of her death, an enhanced life estate is required.
The St George title goes through the wife’s estate if she passes away before her spouse and survivorship provisions have not been included in their deed. It doesn’t matter if there is a will or not, the estate can be administered in probate court or simply probated. If beneficiaries have been named in the deceased wife’s will, her property will pass to them. If there is no will, the heirs of the deceased will have the St George title passed to them. The deceased’s living husband is legally an heir in this scenario, but the laws of the state where the property is located will ultimately determine the amount of property he is granted. In the event where there are no survivorship provisions in the deed, it is possible that the surviving husband could become joint owners with his wife’s siblings, parents, or children from a previous marriage.
Disclaimer of Interest
In the event that the husband does not wish to acquire the St George title or any shares of property of his late wife even though survivorship provisions are contained in the deed, he can file a disclaimer of interest. When this is done, the existing survivorship provisions are cancelled and the shares that were granted to him are transferred into the estate.