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

What Happens To A House When The Owner Dies And There Is No Will - What Happens To A Mortgage When Someone Dies Without A Will - What Happens To A Joint Mortgage When Someone Dies

What happens to a house when the owner dies and there is no will?

In this article, you’ll learn about: 

  • what happens to a mortgage when someone dies without a will 
  • when to notify the mortgage company of the death
  • intestate succession for a house and there is no will 
  • how to transfer property after death when there is no will
  • how long a house can stay in a deceased person’s name
  • how long do you have to transfer property after death
  • what happens if my husband died and my name is not on the mortgage

Let’s dig in.

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What Happens To A Mortgage When Someone Dies Without A Will?

When the owner of a house dies without a will, the property usually enters a legal process called probate.

The probate process involves:

  • validating the death
  • identifying the deceased’s assets
  • paying any debts and taxes
  • distributing the remaining assets

The court appoints an administrator to oversee this process. 

This person is often a close relative.

The administrator finds and contacts potential heirs. 

These are usually the closest relatives like spouses, children, or siblings.

If the deceased had debt, the house could be sold to pay it off. 

If not, it usually passes to the heirs.

The heirs can decide what to do with the house. 

They might sell it, live in it, or rent it out.

Local laws can influence this process. 

Each state has its own probate laws, which could slightly alter how things unfold.

If There's A Mortgage

When a homeowner dies without a will, the property generally goes into probate. 

This is a legal process where the court determines how to distribute the deceased’s assets.

If there’s a mortgage, the lender still needs to be paid. 

The executor or administrator of the estate, appointed by the court, is responsible for this. 

They may use the estate’s assets to make these payments.

If the estate doesn’t have enough assets to cover the mortgage, the house may be sold. 

The proceeds will pay off the mortgage, and any remaining money goes to the deceased’s heirs as determined by the court.

If a person (or people) is named as the beneficiary on the homeowner’s death, the house may pass directly to them. 

They can choose to continue making mortgage payments or sell the house.

In some cases, the lender might require the loan to be paid in full immediately. 

This is known as a “due-on-sale” clause. 

If this happens, the beneficiary or the estate must:

  • pay off the mortgage 
  • sell the house

The distribution of assets, including the house, to the deceased’s relatives follows the laws of intestate succession

These laws vary by state. 

They typically prioritize spouses, children, and other close family members.

If The House Is Owned Outright

When someone dies without a will and the house is owned outright, the property enters a legal process called “probate.” 

This process determines who inherits the deceased person’s assets.

If the person is unmarried and without children, the property usually goes to the next closest relative, such as a parent or sibling. 

If the person is married or has children, the property often goes to the spouse or children.

A court-appointed administrator manages this process. 

The administrator: 

  • identifies the deceased person’s assets, 
  • pays any debts and taxes, and then
  • distributes the remaining assets, including the house, to the heirs.

The exact distribution can vary based on state law. 

Some states give a spouse a certain portion and the rest to the children, while others may divide assets differently.

If the deceased person has no living relatives, the property typically goes to the state.

If there’s no loan to be paid off or transferred, there may be other debts or taxes that affect the property’s distribution. 

That can include property liens, inheritance taxes, and estate taxes.

Read More: Inheriting A House That Is Paid Off

What Happens To A Joint Mortgage When Someone Dies?

When someone dies, the joint mortgage still exists.

The surviving borrower becomes solely responsible for the mortgage.

They need to continue making mortgage payments on time.

The lender doesn’t automatically require full repayment of the mortgage.

The deceased borrower’s estate might be involved in settling debts.

Refinancing the mortgage or selling the property are options.

When To Notify Mortgage Company Of Death

You should notify the mortgage company of the borrower’s death promptly.

To notify the mortgage company of a death, follow these steps:

  • Gather Documents: Get the death certificate and proof of executorship.
  • Contact The Mortgage Company: Call their customer service or loss mitigation department.
  • Provide Information: Share the borrower’s name, loan account number, and date of death.
  • Submit Documentation: Send the death certificate and executorship proof.
  • Discuss Next Steps: Talk about options like assuming the mortgage, refinancing, or selling the property.

What each lender considers necessary documentation may vary. 

Here are some examples of documents the mortgage company may ask you to provide:

  • Death Certificate
  • Letter of Administration or Executorship 
  • Contact Information for Administrator/Executor 
  • Account Number of Mortgage 
  • Proof of Relationship to the Deceased (such as a marriage license) 

Discuss the next steps with the mortgage company to address the loan and potential options.

Be proactive in communicating and cooperating with the mortgage company during this process.

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

Can You Keep A Mortgage In A Dead Person's Name?

No, you generally cannot keep a mortgage in a dead person’s name. 

When someone dies, their debts, including a mortgage, don’t disappear. 

Here’s a simplified process  of what happens to a mortgage in a deceased person’s name:

  • If there’s a co-borrower on the mortgage, they become solely responsible for the debt.
  • If there’s no co-borrower, the executor or administrator of the deceased’s estate handles the debt.
  • The executor may sell the property to pay off the mortgage.
  • If the property isn’t sold, the mortgage lender usually requires the new property owner to refinance the mortgage into their own name.
  • In some cases, an inheriting relative might be allowed to assume the mortgage without refinancing, but this depends on the loan terms and the lender’s policies.
  • If the mortgage isn’t handled, the lender has the right to foreclose on the property.

Intestate Succession For A House And There Is No Will

Intestate succession is the process of distributing a house when the owner dies without a will.

In this situation, state laws determine who inherits the property.

The laws prioritize close relatives, such as spouses, children, parents, and siblings.

The surviving spouse typically receives the house.

If there are no children, parents, or siblings, the surviving spouse may inherit everything.

If there are children but no surviving spouse, the children may inherit the house.

In the absence of close relatives, the state may claim the property.

What Is The Order Of Intestate Succession For A House Without A Will?

The order of intestate succession for a house without a will follows this sequence:

  • Spouse: The surviving spouse usually inherits the entire house if there are no children or parents of the deceased.
  • Children: If there is no surviving spouse, the house is divided equally among the children.
  • Parents: In the absence of a spouse and children, the parents of the deceased inherit the house.
  • Siblings: If there are no surviving parents, the house is divided among the siblings.
  • Other Relatives: If there are no immediate family members, more distant relatives may be entitled to inherit the house.

How To Transfer Property After Death When There Is No Will

When someone dies without a will, it’s called intestate. 

To transfer property after a death when there is no will, follow these steps:

  • Identify The Legal Heirs: Determine who the deceased person’s closest relatives are according to the intestacy laws of your state or country.
  • Obtain The Necessary Documents: Collect the death certificate and any other required legal documents.
  • File a Petition with the Court: Submit a petition to the probate court to appoint an administrator for the estate.
  • Administer the Estate: The court-appointed administrator will handle the distribution of the deceased person’s property.
  • Distribution of Property: The administrator will distribute the assets to the legal heirs as determined by intestacy laws.
  • Follow Legal Procedures: Comply with any other legal requirements and regulations for the property transfer.
  • Transfer Ownership: Update property records and titles to reflect the new owners.
  • Seek Professional Advice: Consult with an attorney or legal expert if you encounter complex issues during the process.

Transferring the mortgage after death requires all of the above. 

But be sure to also:

  • Notify the Mortgage Lender: Inform the lender about the owner’s passing and provide necessary documentation.
  • Continue Mortgage Payments: Keep making mortgage payments during the transfer process.
  • Assumption or Refinance: The new property owner can either assume the existing mortgage or refinance the loan.
  • Qualify for Assumption: The new owner must meet the lender’s requirements for assuming the mortgage.
  • Refinancing: If the new owner can’t assume, they can apply for a new mortgage to pay off the existing loan.
  • Title Transfer: Once the mortgage is resolved, transfer the property title to the new owner. 

Can Property Be Transferred Without Probate?

Yes, real estate property can be transferred without probate.

There are several ways to do it.

The most common ways to transfer property without probate are:

  • Living Trust: A living trust transfers real estate without probate by legally owning the property while the person is alive. The original owner sets up the trust and transfers the property’s ownership to the trust. They are now known as the  “grantor.” The grantor retains control as the trustee during their lifetime. After the grantor’s death, the property goes to the beneficiaries named in the trust document. Since the trust owns the property, it avoids probate, which is the legal process of distributing assets after death.
  • Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship: When one joint tenant dies, their share automatically goes to the surviving joint tenant(s). Probate is not required because the property passes directly to the surviving joint tenants. This process is known as the “right of survivorship.” It simplifies the transfer of ownership and avoids the need for court involvement.
  • Transfer on Death Deed: A Transfer on Death Deed (TOD Deed) allows real estate to transfer directly to designated beneficiaries without going through probate. The deed specifies who will inherit the property upon the owner’s death. This process bypasses the need for a court-supervised probate process, simplifying the transfer and potentially saving time and money for the beneficiaries. 

These methods allow the property to pass directly to the designated beneficiaries without going through probate.

How Long Do You Have To Transfer Property After Death?

There is no strict time limit for transferring real estate.

After someone dies, property transfer usually occurs during the probate process

Probate can take several months to complete, depending on the complexity of the estate and local laws. 

During probate, the court will determine how to distribute the property among heirs or beneficiaries.

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

A house can stay in a deceased person’s name indefinitely. 

How long you have to transfer a house after death depends on:

  • legal procedures 
  • the estate settlement process 

The probate court oversees property distribution. 

Heirs inherit the house after resolving debts and fulfilling legal requirements. 

Transfer deeds to the new owner occur during the probate process. 

Title transfer ensures the property is legally in the heir’s name.

FAQs About What Happens To A House When The Owner Dies And There Is No Will

These are common questions our clients ask about what happens to a house when the owner dies and there is no will.

What Is A Child Entitled To When A Parent Dies Without A Will?

When a parent dies without a will, a child is entitled to inherit a share of the parent’s estate based on the laws of intestate succession. 

Here’s what a child’s share might look like when a parent dies without a will:

  • One Child: The child may inherit the entire estate.
  • Multiple Children: The estate might be divided equally among all the children.
  • Children and a Surviving Spouse: Distribution varies by state, but the spouse and children may receive portions of the estate.
  • Children and Other Relatives: The estate could be divided among children, siblings, nieces, nephews, etc.
  • Adopted and Biological Children: Adopted children inherit the same as biological children.
  • Half-Siblings: Half-siblings may also receive a share, depending on state laws.

The specific share may vary depending on the jurisdiction and the number of children. 

The inheritance typically includes assets like property, money, and possessions. 

What Happens If My Husband Died And My Name Is Not On The Mortgage?

If your husband dies and your name is not on the mortgage, then the debt remains his responsibility. 

If you’re not a co-signer, the mortgage debt remains his responsibility.

The lender can’t force you to pay the debt personally.

However, the lender can foreclose on the house if the mortgage isn’t paid.

You may inherit the house if it’s part of his estate.

To keep the house, you must continue paying the mortgage or negotiate with the lender.

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

Can I Take Over My Parents' Mortgage After Death?

No, you cannot directly take over your parents’ mortgage after their death. 

When a borrower dies, the mortgage must be paid off or assumed by someone qualified, like a spouse. 

The lender needs to be informed of the death, and they will provide options for handling the mortgage.

Read More: If My Name Is On The Deed Do I Own The Property?

Do I Need To Notify My Mortgage Company If My Spouse Dies?

Yes, you need to notify your mortgage company if your spouse dies. 

This is necessary to inform them about the change in ownership or responsibility. 

It allows them to update their records and ensure you are the correct point of contact going forward. 

Failure to do so could lead to complications with your mortgage arrangement. 

It’s best to inform them promptly to avoid any potential issues.

Read More: What Are My Rights If My Name Is Not On A Deed But Married

What Happens To Property When Someone Dies Without Relatives?

When someone dies without relatives, their property is considered “escheat” or abandoned. 

It means the state takes ownership of the property. 

The state will try to find distant relatives but if none are found, the property remains with the state. 

The state may sell or use the property for public benefit or community needs.

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