Feb 2014

Who Signs When the Seller is Deceased?

By admin

Many times we are asked to insure a home purchase where the seller of the property is deceased.  Your Agreement of Sale may be signed by a relative who indicates that they are the executor of the estate.  It’s not that we mistrust them, but as a Title Insurance provider we have to make certain they have the necessary legal right to transfer the property to you.  In some cases there may be more than one person who has to sign the deed.  Here’s why:

Estate laws state by state are very specific as to what happens to your assets when you die.  If you want to be the one to decide where everything goes, including any real estate you may own, then your best bet is to make certain you have a Last Will and Testament.  With a Will you can leave your home to someone in particular which is referred to as a ‘specific devise’ thereby making that person the ‘specific devisee’.  Once your Will has been accepted by the Probate Court of the county where your home is located, that specific devisee is now the rightful owner.  On the other hand you may not want to leave your property to someone in particular, but leave your entire estate (commonly referred to as the rest and residue) to your heirs.  In this case no one person has an individual specific right to the real estate.  Regardless of whether you specifically devise the property to someone or not, you will still name someone in the Will to be your Executor or Executrix.  Once formally appointed by the Probate Court, this person or persons now have the authority to sign the deed on behalf of your estate and sell the real estate.

But what if the seller died without making a Will?  Then the Probate court will appoint someone to act as Administrator of the estate.  This person also has the authority to sell the property with some possible restrictions, though, as to who else may have to sign.

So as a qualified Title Insurance Company, what are we looking for when we review the estate?  First, if the person died with a Will, then we need to know (a) who was appointed as Executor and (b) are there any specific devisees?  In order for us to issue an Owners Title Insurance Policy as well as a Lenders Title Insurance Policy, we’ll have to make certain that the Executor and any specific devisees sign the deed.  If the seller didn’t have a Will, then we’ll confirm the appointment of an Administrator and verify that this person sign.  Keep in mind, though, that if you’re one of the heirs or related to one of the heirs and are buying Aunt Lottie’s house from her estate for little or no money paid, then most state underwriters will require that all of Aunt Lottie’s heirs sign the deed, not just the Administrator.  This holds true for any sale where the buyer isn’t paying full value.

As a Title Insurance company we are not estate attorneys.  For your own purposes you should always consult an estate attorney to help you prepare a will, handle an estate or probate matter or help file inheritance tax returns.  But you can depend upon our experienced and knowledgeable legal staff to make certain that the right person is signing the deed on the sale of your new home.  You sure wouldn’t want long-lost cousin Kevin to show up at your door claiming his grandma left your dream home to him!  And if he does show up?  Then know that your Title Insurance policy will protect you and enable you to turn to us to help cousin Kevin on his way.

World Wide Land Transfer is a full service Settlement and Escrow Company also providing comprehensive title insurance services for all forms of real estate transactions ranging from a home purchase or refinance to the most complex commercial transaction.  Although World Wide Land Transfer started predominantly as a PA Title Company issuing PA Title Insurance we grew quickly and do a large amount of purchase work issuing both NJ Title Insurance and NY Title Insurance.  With relationships with many estate attorneys throughout much of the Mid-Atlantic and North East we are happy to refer you to an estate attorney whom can facilitate the clearance of your pending sale.  It is imperative that the estate work get done early as to not delay settlement.  We have encountered many a closing in which time was of the essence for the buyers acquisition and a possible delay with estate matters spoiled the transaction and the estate was stuck with the property to search for the next potential buyer.  Don’t let such become your reality.


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