Estate Planning

Removing a Deceased Spouse from a Deed: 5 Necessary Steps

Ty McDuffey

April 19, 2024

|

removing a deceased spouse from a deed

The intelligent digital vault for families

Trustworthy protects and optimizes important family information so you can save time, money, and enjoy peace of mind

If your spouse recently passed away, you might wonder about the steps to take to remove them from the deed to your home.

We’ll explain what you need to know, including how long a house can stay in a deceased person's name. We’ll also cover the steps involved in removing it and explain how Trustworthy can help you navigate this process and stay organized during a challenging time.


Key Takeaways:

  • The specific steps for removing a deceased spouse from a deed depend on how the property was owned and whether they had a will.

  • Surviving spouses should act promptly to update the deed to avoid legal and financial issues down the road.

  • Failure to remove a deceased person’s name from a deed can lead to future problems.


5 Steps for Removing a Deceased Spouse from a Deed

steps for removing a deceased spouse from a deed

Here are the typical steps to follow:

1. Determine How the Property Was Owned

The first step in removing a deceased spouse from a deed is to determine how the property was owned. The two most common forms of joint tenancy between spouses are joint tenancy with the right of survivorship and tenancy in common.

Joint tenancy with the right of survivorship means both spouses own an equal, undivided interest in the property. When one spouse dies, their share automatically passes to the surviving spouse without the need for probate. This is the easiest scenario for removing a deceased spouse from the deed.

Tenancy in common means each spouse owned a separate, distinct share of the property. This share can be equal or unequal, depending on how the deed was set up. When a spouse dies, their share passes to their heirs as specified in their will or by state laws. Removing a deceased spouse typically requires going through probate court.

To determine how your property is owned, check the language on the original deed. If you're unsure, consult with a real estate attorney or your county recorder's office for guidance.

Obtain a Death Certificate

The next step is to obtain certified copies of your spouse's death certificate. Request several certified copies from your state or county vital records office. You'll likely need them for various legal and financial matters related to your spouse's estate. There is usually a small fee for each copy requested.

When requesting them, be prepared to provide your spouse's full legal name, date and place of death, and a copy of your own photo ID. You may also need to provide proof of your relationship, such as a marriage certificate.

File an Affidavit of Survivorship

If the property was held in joint tenancy with the right of survivorship, the next step is to file an affidavit of survivorship with the county recorder's office where the property is located. This document legally transfers your deceased spouse's share of the property to you as the surviving owner.

The affidavit of survivorship should include the following information:

  • Your name and your deceased spouse's name

  • The property address and legal description

  • The date of your spouse's death

  • A statement that you are the surviving joint tenant and are claiming full ownership of the property

  • Your signature, typically notarized

As noted by Patrick Hicks, Head of Legal for Trust and Will:

"Most often, a copy of the deceased spouse's death certificate, the notarized death affidavit, and a legal description of the property are required. Once these steps are complete, your deceased spouse will have been removed, and you will be the sole owner on the deed."

Along with the affidavit, you'll need to submit a certified copy of your spouse's death certificate. Some counties may have additional forms or requirements, so it's best to check with your local recorder's office for specific instructions.

Once the affidavit and death certificate are filed, the county will update the property records to reflect your sole ownership. 

Keep a copy of the filed affidavit for your records, as you may need it in the future if you decide to sell or refinance the property.

File the Deceased Spouse's Will

If the property was held in tenancy in common, removing a deceased spouse from the deed typically requires filing their will with the local probate court. The will should specify who inherits their share of the property.

To begin the probate process, you'll need to file a petition with the court, along with a copy of the will and a certified copy of the death certificate. The court will then appoint an executor to manage the deceased's estate and distribute assets according to the will.

If the will names you as the beneficiary of your spouse's share of the property, the court will issue an order transferring ownership to you once the probate process is complete. At that point, you can proceed with updating the deed to remove your spouse's name.

If the will names someone else as the beneficiary, that person will need to be included on the new deed as a co-owner. This can create a more difficult situation, especially if you want to sell or refinance the property in the future.

Obtain a New Deed

Obtaining a new deed officially removes your deceased spouse from the title and confirms your status as the sole owner.

Contact your county recorder's office to get a copy of the new deed form. You'll need to provide the old deed, the affidavit of survivorship or court order from probate, and your spouse's death certificate.

Fill out the new deed form with your name as the sole grantee and sign it in front of a notary. Then, file the new deed with the county recorder's office, along with any required filing fees. The recorder will update the property records to reflect the change in ownership.

Keep a copy of the new deed for your records. You'll need it if you ever decide to sell, refinance, or transfer the property in the future. 

As you navigate this process of removing your spouse’s name from a deed, staying organized is key. Using a secure platform like Trustworthy to store and manage important documents, like the deed and your spouse's will, can make it easier to complete the necessary steps without added hassle.


Do You Have to Remove a Deceased Spouse from a Deed?

remove a deceased spouse from a deed

Yes, a deceased spouse should be removed from the deed to any property that was jointly owned with the surviving spouse. Leaving their name on it can lead to a host of problems, including:

Difficulty Selling or Refinancing the Property in the Future

Potential buyers and lenders typically require that all owners listed on the deed sign off on the transaction. If one of the owners is deceased, it can hold up the process and create legal headaches.

For example, if you decide to sell the home a few years after your spouse's passing, but their name is still on the deed, you may have to go through probate court to get approval for the sale. This can be a time-consuming and expensive process, especially if there are any disputes among heirs or creditors.

Having a deceased spouse on the deed can prevent you from refinancing a mortgage. Lenders usually require all owners to sign the new loan documents, which is impossible if one owner has passed away.

To avoid these complications, it's best to remove a deceased spouse from the deed as soon as possible after their death. This ensures you have full legal control over the property and can make decisions about its future without any unnecessary obstacles or delays.

Potential Disputes with Heirs or Creditors of the Deceased Spouse

If the deceased spouse's name remains on the deed to a jointly owned property, it can open the door for potential disputes and legal challenges.

For instance, if the deceased spouse had children from a previous marriage, they may try to claim an interest in the property as part of their inheritance. This can lead to messy legal battles and even the forced sale of the property.

Creditors of the deceased spouse may also try to go after the property to settle any outstanding debts. If their name is still on the deed, creditors may argue that the property is part of their estate and should be used to pay off what is owed.

Continued Property Tax Bills and Other Financial Obligations in the Deceased Spouse's Name 

When a spouse passes away, their financial obligations don't disappear with them. Any bills or debts in their name, including property taxes on jointly owned real estate, become the responsibility of their estate and surviving spouse to settle.

If you don't remove your deceased spouse's name from the deed, you may continue to receive property tax bills and other notices addressed to them. This can create confusion and make it harder to stay on top of important payments and deadlines.

In some cases, failing to pay property taxes or other obligations related to the home can lead to serious consequences, like liens or even foreclosure. As the surviving spouse, you'll be on the hook for any missed payments or penalties, even if the bills are still coming in your deceased spouse's name.

Removing your spouse from the deed helps streamline financial matters and ensures all obligations related to the property are clearly in your control. You'll receive bills and notices directly, making it easier to stay organized and avoid missed payments.

It's also a good idea to notify your mortgage lender, homeowners insurance company, and utility providers of your spouse's passing. Accounts should be updated to reflect your sole ownership. This prevents any interruptions in service or coverage.


How Trustworthy Can Help

how trustworthy can help

Trustworthy’s secure digital storage platform is designed to help simplify the process and keep you organized. You can:

  • Safely store and access important documents like property deeds, affidavits, and your spouse's will

  • Share access with co-executors, legal professionals, and others assisting with the estate

  • Set reminders to help stay on track with deadlines and required actions

  • Get helpful checklists and guidance for navigating key processes

By relying on Trustworthy, you can eliminate the stress and confusion of locating critical paperwork when it's needed most. We're here to provide security and peace of mind so you can focus on honoring your spouse's memory.


FAQs

How long can a house remain in a deceased person's name?

This varies by state, ranging from a few months to a year or two. It's best to initiate the process of removing the deceased spouse from the deed promptly to avoid complications.

Is removing a deceased spouse from the deed the same as removing them from the mortgage?

Obtaining a new deed is separate from updating the mortgage on the property. If there is still a mortgage in place, you'll need to contact the lender separately to have your spouse's name removed from the loan. In some cases, you may need to refinance the mortgage into your name alone.

Estate Planning

Removing a Deceased Spouse from a Deed: 5 Necessary Steps

Ty McDuffey

April 19, 2024

|

removing a deceased spouse from a deed

If your spouse recently passed away, you might wonder about the steps to take to remove them from the deed to your home.

We’ll explain what you need to know, including how long a house can stay in a deceased person's name. We’ll also cover the steps involved in removing it and explain how Trustworthy can help you navigate this process and stay organized during a challenging time.


Key Takeaways:

  • The specific steps for removing a deceased spouse from a deed depend on how the property was owned and whether they had a will.

  • Surviving spouses should act promptly to update the deed to avoid legal and financial issues down the road.

  • Failure to remove a deceased person’s name from a deed can lead to future problems.


5 Steps for Removing a Deceased Spouse from a Deed

steps for removing a deceased spouse from a deed

Here are the typical steps to follow:

1. Determine How the Property Was Owned

The first step in removing a deceased spouse from a deed is to determine how the property was owned. The two most common forms of joint tenancy between spouses are joint tenancy with the right of survivorship and tenancy in common.

Joint tenancy with the right of survivorship means both spouses own an equal, undivided interest in the property. When one spouse dies, their share automatically passes to the surviving spouse without the need for probate. This is the easiest scenario for removing a deceased spouse from the deed.

Tenancy in common means each spouse owned a separate, distinct share of the property. This share can be equal or unequal, depending on how the deed was set up. When a spouse dies, their share passes to their heirs as specified in their will or by state laws. Removing a deceased spouse typically requires going through probate court.

To determine how your property is owned, check the language on the original deed. If you're unsure, consult with a real estate attorney or your county recorder's office for guidance.

Obtain a Death Certificate

The next step is to obtain certified copies of your spouse's death certificate. Request several certified copies from your state or county vital records office. You'll likely need them for various legal and financial matters related to your spouse's estate. There is usually a small fee for each copy requested.

When requesting them, be prepared to provide your spouse's full legal name, date and place of death, and a copy of your own photo ID. You may also need to provide proof of your relationship, such as a marriage certificate.

File an Affidavit of Survivorship

If the property was held in joint tenancy with the right of survivorship, the next step is to file an affidavit of survivorship with the county recorder's office where the property is located. This document legally transfers your deceased spouse's share of the property to you as the surviving owner.

The affidavit of survivorship should include the following information:

  • Your name and your deceased spouse's name

  • The property address and legal description

  • The date of your spouse's death

  • A statement that you are the surviving joint tenant and are claiming full ownership of the property

  • Your signature, typically notarized

As noted by Patrick Hicks, Head of Legal for Trust and Will:

"Most often, a copy of the deceased spouse's death certificate, the notarized death affidavit, and a legal description of the property are required. Once these steps are complete, your deceased spouse will have been removed, and you will be the sole owner on the deed."

Along with the affidavit, you'll need to submit a certified copy of your spouse's death certificate. Some counties may have additional forms or requirements, so it's best to check with your local recorder's office for specific instructions.

Once the affidavit and death certificate are filed, the county will update the property records to reflect your sole ownership. 

Keep a copy of the filed affidavit for your records, as you may need it in the future if you decide to sell or refinance the property.

File the Deceased Spouse's Will

If the property was held in tenancy in common, removing a deceased spouse from the deed typically requires filing their will with the local probate court. The will should specify who inherits their share of the property.

To begin the probate process, you'll need to file a petition with the court, along with a copy of the will and a certified copy of the death certificate. The court will then appoint an executor to manage the deceased's estate and distribute assets according to the will.

If the will names you as the beneficiary of your spouse's share of the property, the court will issue an order transferring ownership to you once the probate process is complete. At that point, you can proceed with updating the deed to remove your spouse's name.

If the will names someone else as the beneficiary, that person will need to be included on the new deed as a co-owner. This can create a more difficult situation, especially if you want to sell or refinance the property in the future.

Obtain a New Deed

Obtaining a new deed officially removes your deceased spouse from the title and confirms your status as the sole owner.

Contact your county recorder's office to get a copy of the new deed form. You'll need to provide the old deed, the affidavit of survivorship or court order from probate, and your spouse's death certificate.

Fill out the new deed form with your name as the sole grantee and sign it in front of a notary. Then, file the new deed with the county recorder's office, along with any required filing fees. The recorder will update the property records to reflect the change in ownership.

Keep a copy of the new deed for your records. You'll need it if you ever decide to sell, refinance, or transfer the property in the future. 

As you navigate this process of removing your spouse’s name from a deed, staying organized is key. Using a secure platform like Trustworthy to store and manage important documents, like the deed and your spouse's will, can make it easier to complete the necessary steps without added hassle.


Do You Have to Remove a Deceased Spouse from a Deed?

remove a deceased spouse from a deed

Yes, a deceased spouse should be removed from the deed to any property that was jointly owned with the surviving spouse. Leaving their name on it can lead to a host of problems, including:

Difficulty Selling or Refinancing the Property in the Future

Potential buyers and lenders typically require that all owners listed on the deed sign off on the transaction. If one of the owners is deceased, it can hold up the process and create legal headaches.

For example, if you decide to sell the home a few years after your spouse's passing, but their name is still on the deed, you may have to go through probate court to get approval for the sale. This can be a time-consuming and expensive process, especially if there are any disputes among heirs or creditors.

Having a deceased spouse on the deed can prevent you from refinancing a mortgage. Lenders usually require all owners to sign the new loan documents, which is impossible if one owner has passed away.

To avoid these complications, it's best to remove a deceased spouse from the deed as soon as possible after their death. This ensures you have full legal control over the property and can make decisions about its future without any unnecessary obstacles or delays.

Potential Disputes with Heirs or Creditors of the Deceased Spouse

If the deceased spouse's name remains on the deed to a jointly owned property, it can open the door for potential disputes and legal challenges.

For instance, if the deceased spouse had children from a previous marriage, they may try to claim an interest in the property as part of their inheritance. This can lead to messy legal battles and even the forced sale of the property.

Creditors of the deceased spouse may also try to go after the property to settle any outstanding debts. If their name is still on the deed, creditors may argue that the property is part of their estate and should be used to pay off what is owed.

Continued Property Tax Bills and Other Financial Obligations in the Deceased Spouse's Name 

When a spouse passes away, their financial obligations don't disappear with them. Any bills or debts in their name, including property taxes on jointly owned real estate, become the responsibility of their estate and surviving spouse to settle.

If you don't remove your deceased spouse's name from the deed, you may continue to receive property tax bills and other notices addressed to them. This can create confusion and make it harder to stay on top of important payments and deadlines.

In some cases, failing to pay property taxes or other obligations related to the home can lead to serious consequences, like liens or even foreclosure. As the surviving spouse, you'll be on the hook for any missed payments or penalties, even if the bills are still coming in your deceased spouse's name.

Removing your spouse from the deed helps streamline financial matters and ensures all obligations related to the property are clearly in your control. You'll receive bills and notices directly, making it easier to stay organized and avoid missed payments.

It's also a good idea to notify your mortgage lender, homeowners insurance company, and utility providers of your spouse's passing. Accounts should be updated to reflect your sole ownership. This prevents any interruptions in service or coverage.


How Trustworthy Can Help

how trustworthy can help

Trustworthy’s secure digital storage platform is designed to help simplify the process and keep you organized. You can:

  • Safely store and access important documents like property deeds, affidavits, and your spouse's will

  • Share access with co-executors, legal professionals, and others assisting with the estate

  • Set reminders to help stay on track with deadlines and required actions

  • Get helpful checklists and guidance for navigating key processes

By relying on Trustworthy, you can eliminate the stress and confusion of locating critical paperwork when it's needed most. We're here to provide security and peace of mind so you can focus on honoring your spouse's memory.


FAQs

How long can a house remain in a deceased person's name?

This varies by state, ranging from a few months to a year or two. It's best to initiate the process of removing the deceased spouse from the deed promptly to avoid complications.

Is removing a deceased spouse from the deed the same as removing them from the mortgage?

Obtaining a new deed is separate from updating the mortgage on the property. If there is still a mortgage in place, you'll need to contact the lender separately to have your spouse's name removed from the loan. In some cases, you may need to refinance the mortgage into your name alone.

Estate Planning

Removing a Deceased Spouse from a Deed: 5 Necessary Steps

Ty McDuffey

April 19, 2024

|

removing a deceased spouse from a deed

The intelligent digital vault for families

Trustworthy protects and optimizes important family information so you can save time, money, and enjoy peace of mind

If your spouse recently passed away, you might wonder about the steps to take to remove them from the deed to your home.

We’ll explain what you need to know, including how long a house can stay in a deceased person's name. We’ll also cover the steps involved in removing it and explain how Trustworthy can help you navigate this process and stay organized during a challenging time.


Key Takeaways:

  • The specific steps for removing a deceased spouse from a deed depend on how the property was owned and whether they had a will.

  • Surviving spouses should act promptly to update the deed to avoid legal and financial issues down the road.

  • Failure to remove a deceased person’s name from a deed can lead to future problems.


5 Steps for Removing a Deceased Spouse from a Deed

steps for removing a deceased spouse from a deed

Here are the typical steps to follow:

1. Determine How the Property Was Owned

The first step in removing a deceased spouse from a deed is to determine how the property was owned. The two most common forms of joint tenancy between spouses are joint tenancy with the right of survivorship and tenancy in common.

Joint tenancy with the right of survivorship means both spouses own an equal, undivided interest in the property. When one spouse dies, their share automatically passes to the surviving spouse without the need for probate. This is the easiest scenario for removing a deceased spouse from the deed.

Tenancy in common means each spouse owned a separate, distinct share of the property. This share can be equal or unequal, depending on how the deed was set up. When a spouse dies, their share passes to their heirs as specified in their will or by state laws. Removing a deceased spouse typically requires going through probate court.

To determine how your property is owned, check the language on the original deed. If you're unsure, consult with a real estate attorney or your county recorder's office for guidance.

Obtain a Death Certificate

The next step is to obtain certified copies of your spouse's death certificate. Request several certified copies from your state or county vital records office. You'll likely need them for various legal and financial matters related to your spouse's estate. There is usually a small fee for each copy requested.

When requesting them, be prepared to provide your spouse's full legal name, date and place of death, and a copy of your own photo ID. You may also need to provide proof of your relationship, such as a marriage certificate.

File an Affidavit of Survivorship

If the property was held in joint tenancy with the right of survivorship, the next step is to file an affidavit of survivorship with the county recorder's office where the property is located. This document legally transfers your deceased spouse's share of the property to you as the surviving owner.

The affidavit of survivorship should include the following information:

  • Your name and your deceased spouse's name

  • The property address and legal description

  • The date of your spouse's death

  • A statement that you are the surviving joint tenant and are claiming full ownership of the property

  • Your signature, typically notarized

As noted by Patrick Hicks, Head of Legal for Trust and Will:

"Most often, a copy of the deceased spouse's death certificate, the notarized death affidavit, and a legal description of the property are required. Once these steps are complete, your deceased spouse will have been removed, and you will be the sole owner on the deed."

Along with the affidavit, you'll need to submit a certified copy of your spouse's death certificate. Some counties may have additional forms or requirements, so it's best to check with your local recorder's office for specific instructions.

Once the affidavit and death certificate are filed, the county will update the property records to reflect your sole ownership. 

Keep a copy of the filed affidavit for your records, as you may need it in the future if you decide to sell or refinance the property.

File the Deceased Spouse's Will

If the property was held in tenancy in common, removing a deceased spouse from the deed typically requires filing their will with the local probate court. The will should specify who inherits their share of the property.

To begin the probate process, you'll need to file a petition with the court, along with a copy of the will and a certified copy of the death certificate. The court will then appoint an executor to manage the deceased's estate and distribute assets according to the will.

If the will names you as the beneficiary of your spouse's share of the property, the court will issue an order transferring ownership to you once the probate process is complete. At that point, you can proceed with updating the deed to remove your spouse's name.

If the will names someone else as the beneficiary, that person will need to be included on the new deed as a co-owner. This can create a more difficult situation, especially if you want to sell or refinance the property in the future.

Obtain a New Deed

Obtaining a new deed officially removes your deceased spouse from the title and confirms your status as the sole owner.

Contact your county recorder's office to get a copy of the new deed form. You'll need to provide the old deed, the affidavit of survivorship or court order from probate, and your spouse's death certificate.

Fill out the new deed form with your name as the sole grantee and sign it in front of a notary. Then, file the new deed with the county recorder's office, along with any required filing fees. The recorder will update the property records to reflect the change in ownership.

Keep a copy of the new deed for your records. You'll need it if you ever decide to sell, refinance, or transfer the property in the future. 

As you navigate this process of removing your spouse’s name from a deed, staying organized is key. Using a secure platform like Trustworthy to store and manage important documents, like the deed and your spouse's will, can make it easier to complete the necessary steps without added hassle.


Do You Have to Remove a Deceased Spouse from a Deed?

remove a deceased spouse from a deed

Yes, a deceased spouse should be removed from the deed to any property that was jointly owned with the surviving spouse. Leaving their name on it can lead to a host of problems, including:

Difficulty Selling or Refinancing the Property in the Future

Potential buyers and lenders typically require that all owners listed on the deed sign off on the transaction. If one of the owners is deceased, it can hold up the process and create legal headaches.

For example, if you decide to sell the home a few years after your spouse's passing, but their name is still on the deed, you may have to go through probate court to get approval for the sale. This can be a time-consuming and expensive process, especially if there are any disputes among heirs or creditors.

Having a deceased spouse on the deed can prevent you from refinancing a mortgage. Lenders usually require all owners to sign the new loan documents, which is impossible if one owner has passed away.

To avoid these complications, it's best to remove a deceased spouse from the deed as soon as possible after their death. This ensures you have full legal control over the property and can make decisions about its future without any unnecessary obstacles or delays.

Potential Disputes with Heirs or Creditors of the Deceased Spouse

If the deceased spouse's name remains on the deed to a jointly owned property, it can open the door for potential disputes and legal challenges.

For instance, if the deceased spouse had children from a previous marriage, they may try to claim an interest in the property as part of their inheritance. This can lead to messy legal battles and even the forced sale of the property.

Creditors of the deceased spouse may also try to go after the property to settle any outstanding debts. If their name is still on the deed, creditors may argue that the property is part of their estate and should be used to pay off what is owed.

Continued Property Tax Bills and Other Financial Obligations in the Deceased Spouse's Name 

When a spouse passes away, their financial obligations don't disappear with them. Any bills or debts in their name, including property taxes on jointly owned real estate, become the responsibility of their estate and surviving spouse to settle.

If you don't remove your deceased spouse's name from the deed, you may continue to receive property tax bills and other notices addressed to them. This can create confusion and make it harder to stay on top of important payments and deadlines.

In some cases, failing to pay property taxes or other obligations related to the home can lead to serious consequences, like liens or even foreclosure. As the surviving spouse, you'll be on the hook for any missed payments or penalties, even if the bills are still coming in your deceased spouse's name.

Removing your spouse from the deed helps streamline financial matters and ensures all obligations related to the property are clearly in your control. You'll receive bills and notices directly, making it easier to stay organized and avoid missed payments.

It's also a good idea to notify your mortgage lender, homeowners insurance company, and utility providers of your spouse's passing. Accounts should be updated to reflect your sole ownership. This prevents any interruptions in service or coverage.


How Trustworthy Can Help

how trustworthy can help

Trustworthy’s secure digital storage platform is designed to help simplify the process and keep you organized. You can:

  • Safely store and access important documents like property deeds, affidavits, and your spouse's will

  • Share access with co-executors, legal professionals, and others assisting with the estate

  • Set reminders to help stay on track with deadlines and required actions

  • Get helpful checklists and guidance for navigating key processes

By relying on Trustworthy, you can eliminate the stress and confusion of locating critical paperwork when it's needed most. We're here to provide security and peace of mind so you can focus on honoring your spouse's memory.


FAQs

How long can a house remain in a deceased person's name?

This varies by state, ranging from a few months to a year or two. It's best to initiate the process of removing the deceased spouse from the deed promptly to avoid complications.

Is removing a deceased spouse from the deed the same as removing them from the mortgage?

Obtaining a new deed is separate from updating the mortgage on the property. If there is still a mortgage in place, you'll need to contact the lender separately to have your spouse's name removed from the loan. In some cases, you may need to refinance the mortgage into your name alone.

Estate Planning

Removing a Deceased Spouse from a Deed: 5 Necessary Steps

Ty McDuffey

April 19, 2024

|

removing a deceased spouse from a deed

The intelligent digital vault for families

Trustworthy protects and optimizes important family information so you can save time, money, and enjoy peace of mind

If your spouse recently passed away, you might wonder about the steps to take to remove them from the deed to your home.

We’ll explain what you need to know, including how long a house can stay in a deceased person's name. We’ll also cover the steps involved in removing it and explain how Trustworthy can help you navigate this process and stay organized during a challenging time.


Key Takeaways:

  • The specific steps for removing a deceased spouse from a deed depend on how the property was owned and whether they had a will.

  • Surviving spouses should act promptly to update the deed to avoid legal and financial issues down the road.

  • Failure to remove a deceased person’s name from a deed can lead to future problems.


5 Steps for Removing a Deceased Spouse from a Deed

steps for removing a deceased spouse from a deed

Here are the typical steps to follow:

1. Determine How the Property Was Owned

The first step in removing a deceased spouse from a deed is to determine how the property was owned. The two most common forms of joint tenancy between spouses are joint tenancy with the right of survivorship and tenancy in common.

Joint tenancy with the right of survivorship means both spouses own an equal, undivided interest in the property. When one spouse dies, their share automatically passes to the surviving spouse without the need for probate. This is the easiest scenario for removing a deceased spouse from the deed.

Tenancy in common means each spouse owned a separate, distinct share of the property. This share can be equal or unequal, depending on how the deed was set up. When a spouse dies, their share passes to their heirs as specified in their will or by state laws. Removing a deceased spouse typically requires going through probate court.

To determine how your property is owned, check the language on the original deed. If you're unsure, consult with a real estate attorney or your county recorder's office for guidance.

Obtain a Death Certificate

The next step is to obtain certified copies of your spouse's death certificate. Request several certified copies from your state or county vital records office. You'll likely need them for various legal and financial matters related to your spouse's estate. There is usually a small fee for each copy requested.

When requesting them, be prepared to provide your spouse's full legal name, date and place of death, and a copy of your own photo ID. You may also need to provide proof of your relationship, such as a marriage certificate.

File an Affidavit of Survivorship

If the property was held in joint tenancy with the right of survivorship, the next step is to file an affidavit of survivorship with the county recorder's office where the property is located. This document legally transfers your deceased spouse's share of the property to you as the surviving owner.

The affidavit of survivorship should include the following information:

  • Your name and your deceased spouse's name

  • The property address and legal description

  • The date of your spouse's death

  • A statement that you are the surviving joint tenant and are claiming full ownership of the property

  • Your signature, typically notarized

As noted by Patrick Hicks, Head of Legal for Trust and Will:

"Most often, a copy of the deceased spouse's death certificate, the notarized death affidavit, and a legal description of the property are required. Once these steps are complete, your deceased spouse will have been removed, and you will be the sole owner on the deed."

Along with the affidavit, you'll need to submit a certified copy of your spouse's death certificate. Some counties may have additional forms or requirements, so it's best to check with your local recorder's office for specific instructions.

Once the affidavit and death certificate are filed, the county will update the property records to reflect your sole ownership. 

Keep a copy of the filed affidavit for your records, as you may need it in the future if you decide to sell or refinance the property.

File the Deceased Spouse's Will

If the property was held in tenancy in common, removing a deceased spouse from the deed typically requires filing their will with the local probate court. The will should specify who inherits their share of the property.

To begin the probate process, you'll need to file a petition with the court, along with a copy of the will and a certified copy of the death certificate. The court will then appoint an executor to manage the deceased's estate and distribute assets according to the will.

If the will names you as the beneficiary of your spouse's share of the property, the court will issue an order transferring ownership to you once the probate process is complete. At that point, you can proceed with updating the deed to remove your spouse's name.

If the will names someone else as the beneficiary, that person will need to be included on the new deed as a co-owner. This can create a more difficult situation, especially if you want to sell or refinance the property in the future.

Obtain a New Deed

Obtaining a new deed officially removes your deceased spouse from the title and confirms your status as the sole owner.

Contact your county recorder's office to get a copy of the new deed form. You'll need to provide the old deed, the affidavit of survivorship or court order from probate, and your spouse's death certificate.

Fill out the new deed form with your name as the sole grantee and sign it in front of a notary. Then, file the new deed with the county recorder's office, along with any required filing fees. The recorder will update the property records to reflect the change in ownership.

Keep a copy of the new deed for your records. You'll need it if you ever decide to sell, refinance, or transfer the property in the future. 

As you navigate this process of removing your spouse’s name from a deed, staying organized is key. Using a secure platform like Trustworthy to store and manage important documents, like the deed and your spouse's will, can make it easier to complete the necessary steps without added hassle.


Do You Have to Remove a Deceased Spouse from a Deed?

remove a deceased spouse from a deed

Yes, a deceased spouse should be removed from the deed to any property that was jointly owned with the surviving spouse. Leaving their name on it can lead to a host of problems, including:

Difficulty Selling or Refinancing the Property in the Future

Potential buyers and lenders typically require that all owners listed on the deed sign off on the transaction. If one of the owners is deceased, it can hold up the process and create legal headaches.

For example, if you decide to sell the home a few years after your spouse's passing, but their name is still on the deed, you may have to go through probate court to get approval for the sale. This can be a time-consuming and expensive process, especially if there are any disputes among heirs or creditors.

Having a deceased spouse on the deed can prevent you from refinancing a mortgage. Lenders usually require all owners to sign the new loan documents, which is impossible if one owner has passed away.

To avoid these complications, it's best to remove a deceased spouse from the deed as soon as possible after their death. This ensures you have full legal control over the property and can make decisions about its future without any unnecessary obstacles or delays.

Potential Disputes with Heirs or Creditors of the Deceased Spouse

If the deceased spouse's name remains on the deed to a jointly owned property, it can open the door for potential disputes and legal challenges.

For instance, if the deceased spouse had children from a previous marriage, they may try to claim an interest in the property as part of their inheritance. This can lead to messy legal battles and even the forced sale of the property.

Creditors of the deceased spouse may also try to go after the property to settle any outstanding debts. If their name is still on the deed, creditors may argue that the property is part of their estate and should be used to pay off what is owed.

Continued Property Tax Bills and Other Financial Obligations in the Deceased Spouse's Name 

When a spouse passes away, their financial obligations don't disappear with them. Any bills or debts in their name, including property taxes on jointly owned real estate, become the responsibility of their estate and surviving spouse to settle.

If you don't remove your deceased spouse's name from the deed, you may continue to receive property tax bills and other notices addressed to them. This can create confusion and make it harder to stay on top of important payments and deadlines.

In some cases, failing to pay property taxes or other obligations related to the home can lead to serious consequences, like liens or even foreclosure. As the surviving spouse, you'll be on the hook for any missed payments or penalties, even if the bills are still coming in your deceased spouse's name.

Removing your spouse from the deed helps streamline financial matters and ensures all obligations related to the property are clearly in your control. You'll receive bills and notices directly, making it easier to stay organized and avoid missed payments.

It's also a good idea to notify your mortgage lender, homeowners insurance company, and utility providers of your spouse's passing. Accounts should be updated to reflect your sole ownership. This prevents any interruptions in service or coverage.


How Trustworthy Can Help

how trustworthy can help

Trustworthy’s secure digital storage platform is designed to help simplify the process and keep you organized. You can:

  • Safely store and access important documents like property deeds, affidavits, and your spouse's will

  • Share access with co-executors, legal professionals, and others assisting with the estate

  • Set reminders to help stay on track with deadlines and required actions

  • Get helpful checklists and guidance for navigating key processes

By relying on Trustworthy, you can eliminate the stress and confusion of locating critical paperwork when it's needed most. We're here to provide security and peace of mind so you can focus on honoring your spouse's memory.


FAQs

How long can a house remain in a deceased person's name?

This varies by state, ranging from a few months to a year or two. It's best to initiate the process of removing the deceased spouse from the deed promptly to avoid complications.

Is removing a deceased spouse from the deed the same as removing them from the mortgage?

Obtaining a new deed is separate from updating the mortgage on the property. If there is still a mortgage in place, you'll need to contact the lender separately to have your spouse's name removed from the loan. In some cases, you may need to refinance the mortgage into your name alone.

Try Trustworthy today.

Try Trustworthy today.

Try the Family Operating System® for yourself. You (and your family) will love it.

Try the Family Operating System® for yourself. You (and your family) will love it.

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May 1, 2023

Trustworthy guide: How to organize your digital information

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Apr 15, 2023

Can My Husband Make a Will Without My Knowledge?

Can My Husband Make a Will Without My Knowledge?

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Son on father's shoulders
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What is a Last Will and Testament (also known as a Will)?

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Apr 15, 2023

Can A Wife Sell Deceased Husband's Property (6 Rules)

Can A Wife Sell Deceased Husband's Property (6 Rules)

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Should I Shred Documents Of A Deceased Person? (5 Tips)

Can I Change My Power of Attorney Without A Lawyer?
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Apr 15, 2023

Can I Change My Power of Attorney Without A Lawyer?

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Can You Have Two Power of Attorneys? (A Lawyer Answers)

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Can You Have Two Power of Attorneys? (A Lawyer Answers)

Can You Have Two Power of Attorneys? (A Lawyer Answers)

Do Attorneys Keep Copies Of a Will? (4 Things To Know)
Do Attorneys Keep Copies Of a Will? (4 Things To Know)
Do Attorneys Keep Copies Of a Will? (4 Things To Know)
Do Attorneys Keep Copies Of a Will? (4 Things To Know)

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Do Attorneys Keep Copies Of a Will? (4 Things To Know)

Do Attorneys Keep Copies Of a Will? (4 Things To Know)

Estate Planning for a Special Needs Child (Complete Guide)
Estate Planning for a Special Needs Child (Complete Guide)
Estate Planning for a Special Needs Child (Complete Guide)
Estate Planning for a Special Needs Child (Complete Guide)

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Apr 15, 2023

Estate Planning for a Special Needs Child (Complete Guide)

Estate Planning for a Special Needs Child (Complete Guide)

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Estate Planning For Childless Couples (Complete Guide)
Estate Planning For Childless Couples (Complete Guide)
Estate Planning For Childless Couples (Complete Guide)

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Apr 15, 2023

Estate Planning For Childless Couples (Complete Guide)

Estate Planning For Childless Couples (Complete Guide)

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Estate Planning For Elderly Parents
Estate Planning For Elderly Parents
Estate Planning For Elderly Parents

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Apr 15, 2023

Estate Planning For Elderly Parents (Complete Guide)

Estate Planning For Elderly Parents (Complete Guide)

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Woman talking with an advisor in a house
Woman talking with an advisor in a house
Woman talking with an advisor in a house

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Apr 15, 2023

Estate Planning For High Net Worth & Large Estates

Estate Planning For High Net Worth & Large Estates

Estate Planning For Irresponsible Children (Complete Guide)
Estate Planning For Irresponsible Children (Complete Guide)
Estate Planning For Irresponsible Children (Complete Guide)
Estate Planning For Irresponsible Children (Complete Guide)

Apr 15, 2023

Apr 15, 2023

Estate Planning For Irresponsible Children (Complete Guide)

Estate Planning For Irresponsible Children (Complete Guide)

How To Get Power of Attorney For Parent With Dementia?
How To Get Power of Attorney For Parent With Dementia?
How To Get Power of Attorney For Parent With Dementia?
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Apr 15, 2023

Apr 15, 2023

How To Get Power of Attorney For Parent With Dementia?

How To Get Power of Attorney For Parent With Dementia?

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I Lost My Power of Attorney Papers, Now What?
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I Lost My Power of Attorney Papers, Now What?

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Apr 15, 2023

I Lost My Power of Attorney Papers, Now What?

I Lost My Power of Attorney Papers, Now What?

White house
White house
White house
White house

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Apr 15, 2023

Is It Better To Sell or Rent An Inherited House? (Pros & Cons)

Is It Better To Sell or Rent An Inherited House? (Pros & Cons)

Is It Wrong To Move Away From Elderly Parents? My Advice
Is It Wrong To Move Away From Elderly Parents? My Advice
Is It Wrong To Move Away From Elderly Parents? My Advice
Is It Wrong To Move Away From Elderly Parents? My Advice

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Apr 15, 2023

Is It Wrong To Move Away From Elderly Parents? My Advice

Is It Wrong To Move Away From Elderly Parents? My Advice

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Moving An Elderly Parent Into Your Home: What To Know
Moving An Elderly Parent Into Your Home: What To Know

Apr 15, 2023

Apr 15, 2023

Moving An Elderly Parent Into Your Home: What To Know

Moving An Elderly Parent Into Your Home: What To Know

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Moving An Elderly Parent to Another State: What To Know
Moving An Elderly Parent to Another State: What To Know
Moving An Elderly Parent to Another State: What To Know

Apr 15, 2023

Apr 15, 2023

Moving An Elderly Parent to Another State: What To Know

Moving An Elderly Parent to Another State: What To Know

What If Witnesses To A Will Cannot Be Found? A Lawyer Answers
What If Witnesses To A Will Cannot Be Found? A Lawyer Answers