How Long Can A House Stay In A Deceased Person’s Name?

How Long Can A House Stay In A Deceased Persons Name - Can A Mortgage Stay In A Deceased Persons Name - How To Transfer Ownership Of A House Without Selling

How long can a house stay in a deceased person’s name?

In this article, you’ll learn about: 

  • how long a house can stay in a deceased person’s name
  • when you need to inform the mortgage company of the death
  • what happens to a joint mortgage
  • how to transfer ownership of a house without selling it
  • if you can live in a deceased person’s house
  • who can live in the house during probate

Let’s dig in.

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How Long Can A House Stay In A Deceased Person's Name?

A house can stay in a deceased person’s name until either:

  • the probate process is completed 
  • until legal actions require a change in ownership 

Here’s a more direct breakdown:

  • Probate Process: Typically, 6 months to 2 years, depending on the jurisdiction and complexity of the estate.
  • With a Will: If there’s a will and no disputes, the process could be on the shorter end of that range.
  • Without a Will (Intestate): Intestate can often extend the process, potentially towards the longer end of the 2-year range or even beyond, especially if there are disputes among heirs.
  • Legal Delays: Disputes among heirs or challenges to the will can significantly extend the timeframe.
  • Unaddressed Properties: If nobody claims or addresses the property, local laws eventually intervene. Some jurisdictions might have “escheat” laws, allowing the state to take ownership if property remains unclaimed for a certain duration, often several years.
  • Specific Deadlines: Some jurisdictions might have specific timeframes by which estates must be settled, but this varies widely.

So, while the “average” time might be around 1-2 years, the actual duration can vary based on many factors. 

When a person dies, ownership of their property doesn’t automatically change.

But it cannot remain indefinitely in the deceased person’s name. 

The length of time a house can stay in a deceased person’s name varies based on:

  • the jurisdiction
  • local laws
  • the presence or absence of a will
  • the specifics of the probate process

Here are some general steps and considerations:

  • Probate Process: When someone dies, their estate often enters the probate process. This legal procedure distributes assets, pays debts, and transfers property ownership. The time this takes can vary. Simple cases may only take months. Complex cases can take years.
  • Will Presence: If there’s a will, the property goes to the named beneficiaries. The will’s executor manages this distribution.
  • Intestate Death: Dying without a will is called “intestate.” State or local laws then determine property distribution to relatives.
  • Taxes and Debts: Before distributing a property, all outstanding debts, taxes, and liens must be settled. This can affect how long the property stays in the deceased’s name.
  • Legal Delays: Disputes among heirs can postpone property transfer.
  • Local Laws: Different places have their rules for unclaimed properties. If a property is ignored for too long, the local government might take action.
  • Taking Action: Heirs shouldn’t neglect the property. Issues like upkeep, insurance, and taxes are vital. Ignoring them can lead to legal and financial problems.
  • Property in Trust: If a property is in a trust, not an individual’s name, different rules apply. Trusts can bypass regular probate and follow the trust’s rules for distribution.

Fill out the form on this page to talk to one of our probate lawyers

They can give you a better idea of how long a house can stay in a deceased person’s name for your situation. 

Read More: How Long Do You Have To Transfer Property After Death?

When To Notify Mortgage Company Of Death

You should notify the mortgage company of a death immediately. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  • Soon After Death: As soon as possible after the death, the mortgage company should be notified. This helps in addressing immediate concerns and understanding the options available.
  • Provide a Death Certificate: Usually, the mortgage company will request a copy of the death certificate. This proves the passing of the homeowner and helps with official record changes.
  • Identify Yourself Clearly: When you notify the company, clearly state your relationship to the deceased, whether you’re an executor, heir, or another relation.
  • Discuss the Next Steps: The mortgage company will guide you on the necessary steps, whether it’s transferring the mortgage, paying it off, or selling the property.

Read More: Am I Entitled To My Husband’s Property If He Dies And My Name Isn’t On The Deed?

Can A Mortgage Stay In A Deceased Person's Name?

When a person dies, their mortgage doesn’t automatically disappear. 

Instead, the mortgage remains attached to the property. 

So, yes, a mortgage can stay in a deceased person’s name temporarily.

Upon death, the lender is typically informed. 

They may require the heirs to refinance or take out a new loan, especially if they want to keep the property. 

If payments stop, the lender can start foreclosure proceedings.

If there’s a co-signer or joint owner, they become responsible for the mortgage. 

Mortgage life insurance, if it exists, might pay off the loan upon the borrower’s death.

Read More: How Much Does An Estate Have To Be Worth To Go To Probate?

What Happens To A Joint Mortgage When Someone Dies?

A joint mortgage refers to a home loan shared by two or more people, often co-owners of a property. 

When one of these individuals passes away, certain actions and changes related to the mortgage typically ensue.

  • Responsibility Remains: The surviving co-borrower(s) on the mortgage is still responsible for the monthly payments. Essentially, they must continue paying the mortgage as before.
  • Property Ownership May Change: If the property was held as “joint tenants” (a common arrangement for married couples), the deceased’s ownership interest automatically passes to the surviving owner(s). If the property was held as “tenants in common,” the deceased’s share might pass to their heirs or as stipulated in their will.
  • Mortgage Terms Stay the Same: The terms of the original mortgage, like interest rate and duration, usually remain unchanged after the death of a co-borrower.
  • Insurance Might Help: If there’s a mortgage life insurance policy in place, it may pay off the mortgage, or a portion of it, upon the death of a borrower.
  • Refinancing is an Option: The surviving co-borrower may choose to refinance the mortgage, either to reduce payments or to remove the deceased person’s name.
  • Communication with the Lender: It’s important for the surviving borrower to inform the lender of the death. They might offer guidance or potential options regarding the mortgage.

Read More: How Long Can You Keep An Estate Open After Death

How To Transfer Ownership Of A House Without Selling

Transferring the ownership of a house without a sale involves legal processes that change the title or deed to the property. 

Here’s how to transfer ownership of a house without selling it:

  • Determine the Method: Decide how you want to transfer the house. Options include gifting it to someone, leaving it as an inheritance, adding someone to the current deed, or putting the house in a trust.
  • Fill Out a Deed: Obtain and complete the necessary deed form (such as a gift deed, quitclaim deed, or warranty deed) with details of the current and new owners.
  • Notarize the Deed: Both the current owner and the recipient must sign the deed in the presence of a notary.
  • Record the Deed: Take the signed deed to the local county recorder or registrar’s office to have the transfer officially recorded.
  • Update Property Tax Records: Notify local tax authorities about the ownership change to ensure the new owner receives future tax bills.
  • Notify Your Mortgage Lender: If there’s a mortgage on the house, inform the lender about the change in ownership. Some mortgages might require full repayment upon transfer.

Read More: Do You Need A Lawyer To Remove A Name From A Deed?

Transferring Mortgage After Death

When a homeowner dies, transferring their mortgage involves several key steps. 

This process ensures that the home loan is shifted to an appropriate party.

It maintains the terms or renegotiates them based on the lender’s policies and the new owner’s financial situation. 

Here’s how to transfer a mortgage after someone’s death:

  • Notify the Mortgage Company: The first step is to inform the lender about the death. Provide them with a copy of the death certificate.
  • Identify the Successor: Determine who inherits the property. This is usually specified in a will or, if there’s no will, by state inheritance laws.
  • Assumption of the Mortgage: Some mortgages have an “assumption” clause. This means the heir can take over the existing mortgage without needing to refinance. If the mortgage has this clause, the heir should work with the lender to assume the mortgage.
  • Refinancing: If the mortgage doesn’t have an assumption clause, or if the heir wants different terms, they may need to refinance. Refinancing pays off the old mortgage, creating a new loan under the heir’s name.
  • Release of Liability: If another party is assuming or refinancing the mortgage, ensure the original borrower is released from liability. This means they won’t be held responsible for future payments.
  • Stay Current on Payments: Even during this transfer process, it’s essential to keep making mortgage payments. This avoids penalties, extra interest, and potential foreclosure.
  • Transfer the Deed: Transferring a deed involves updating the home’s title to reflect the new owner. Typically, this is done through a local records or registrar’s office.
  • Update Property Insurance: Ensure the homeowner’s insurance policy is updated with the heir’s name.

Read More: Do All Heirs Have To Agree To Sell Property?

FAQs About A House Staying In A Deceased Person’s Name

Here are other questions our clients ask about a house saying in a deceased person’s name. 

Can You Live In A Deceased Person's House?

When a person dies, their property often becomes part of their estate. 

Whether you can live in a deceased person’s house depends on your relationship with the deceased and the estate’s legal status.

  • Immediate Right: If you’re the surviving spouse or co-owner and lived in the house with the deceased, you often have the immediate right to continue living there.
  • Named in the Will: If the deceased left a will and you are named as the beneficiary of the house, you generally can live in it. However, the estate may need to go through probate before you officially own the property.
  • No Will: If there’s no will, state laws dictate property distribution. Until the estate is settled, it’s risky to live in the house without legal authority.
  • Tenant or Renter: If you were renting from the deceased, your right to live in the house will typically be governed by the lease agreement and local tenant laws.
  • Legal Delays: Be aware that disputes among potential heirs or beneficiaries can impact who has the right to live in the house.
  • Unpaid Costs: Ensure property taxes, mortgage payments, and other essential expenses are addressed. Failure to do so could result in legal issues or loss of the property.

Read More: What Happens To A House When The Owner Dies And There Is No Will?

Who Can Live In A House During Probate?

Probate is the legal process where a deceased person’s assets are managed and distributed. 

One common asset is a house. 

During probate, the house’s ownership and rights can be in flux.

Typically, the following people might live in the house during probate:

  • Existing Tenants: If the deceased had rented out the property, existing lease agreements usually remain valid during probate. Tenants can continue living there under the terms of their lease.
  • Heirs or Beneficiaries: Those named in the will, especially immediate family like a surviving spouse or children, may continue or start living in the home unless the will specifies otherwise.
  • Life Tenants: Some wills create a “life estate,” allowing a specific person (like a surviving spouse) to live in the house for their lifetime, even if the property is to be passed to someone else afterward.
  • Executor of the Estate: In some cases, the executor, the person responsible for managing the deceased’s assets, might live in the house. However, they usually need court approval or the consent of all beneficiaries.

Read More: What Happens To A Joint Revocable Trust When One Spouse Dies?

What Happens If You Live In A House And The Owner Dies?

When you live in a house, and the owner dies, the future of your living situation is affected by several factors:

  • Ownership Structure: If the owner had a will, it specifies who inherits the property. If there’s no will, local laws determine the heirs.
  • Mortgage: If there’s an outstanding mortgage, it still needs to be paid. The heir or estate often handles this.
  • Renting: If you’re a tenant, your lease agreement is crucial. Most leases continue under their existing terms until they expire. The heir becomes the new landlord unless they decide to sell.
  • Selling the Property: The heir might choose to sell the property. If so, your lease agreement will typically dictate your rights and how much notice you’ll get.
  • Living Without a Lease: If you’re living there without a formal lease, you have fewer protections. The heir can ask you to leave or sign a new lease.
  • Property in Trust: If the house is part of a trust, the terms of the trust dictate what happens next.

Read More: How To Transfer A Property Deed From A Deceased Relative

Hire A Probate Attorney

If you need to get help from a probate lawyer, fill out the form below. 

At The Hive Law, we understand the importance of:

  • protecting your hard-earned assets 
  • ensuring your family’s future

We only accommodate a limited number of clients each month.

So don’t miss your opportunity to work with our esteemed estate planning attorneys.

Benefits of our probate services:

  • Tailored solutions to fit your unique needs and goals
  • Expert guidance in navigating complex tax and legal matters
  • Preservation of your wealth for future generations
  • Streamlined asset distribution according to your wishes

Avoid the pitfalls of inadequate estate planning:

  • Creditors seizing your assets
  • Lawsuits jeopardizing your family’s financial security
  • Family disputes over inheritance
  • Costly and time-consuming probate processes

Talk soon.

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