Buying from married couple, one is deceased. How to properly transfer title?


  • Hi everyone, I have a property I’m looking at buying from a widow. She and her husband are on the deed and he has passed away. Do I need to acquire a death certificate from her or can she sell me the property without a Will or death certificate? This is in Texas. Thanks for any insight!

  • LIM

    Andy Scheurer depending on how the husband and wife held title (some of this depends on state law, if it wasn't explicitly stated in the previous deed), it may be as simple as getting an original copy of the deceased person's death certificate and recording it along with the new deed.

    Disclaimer: This is not legal advice. Talk to a title professional in your own state to verify the correct way to handle this situation.

    For example, if two or more people hold title to a property as Joint Tenants with Full Rights of Survivorship, their interest automatically passes on to the remaining title holder(s) once they die. Likewise, when the property is sold, everyone holding title together as "joint tenants with full rights of survivorship" must all sell the property together, as if they were one person (in other words, they can't sell their individual portions or percentages of the property, they all have to be on the same page and everyone must sign off when the property is sold - if everyone isn't signing the deed, then the title won't pass properly to the new owner).

    If the deed doesn't clearly say how two or more people are holding title (e.g. - tenants by the entireties, tenants in common, joint tenants, etc), most states will have a statutory default for how the individuals are holding title together.

    If they're holding title as joint tenants, and if one of them dies, all you need is a copy of the deceased person's original death certificate so you can record it along with the deed, which will simply pass their ownership onto the surviving signers.

    You might find this blog post helpful as well: https://retipster.com/deceased-owners/


  • Seth Williams
    Seth always come through with the answers! Thank you!

  • LIM

    Andy Scheurer Hey! I just purchased land from a mother and daughter who were both listed on the deed. The title company helped me and said all that was needed was the death certificate of the deceased mother to be notarized during closing. Pretty easy. Obviously these things vary wildly from state to state. I'd suggest asking the title company.


  • Andy Scheurer I recently bought a property with a similar issue, and lines up with Seth's response.

    The seller was the second wife of the deceased title owner, and she was being assisted by her brother. The deceased owner's first wife was also deceased.

    I took this to a title company for closing. The seller had no legal ownership of the property even though she was married to the owner for 20+ years. If I recall correctly the owner bought the property prior to being married the first time. The title company required the heirs of the deceased owner and 1st wife to sign over the property to the seller (2nd wife). I wrote this deal off, as I thought it would be near impossible to get 4 people to agree to give away a property to their stepmother.

    The brother of the seller did all the leg work, he reached out to the heirs, they all agreed that the seller should be the rightful owner. The brother reached out multiple time to them, and was able to get them to sign the title company paper work for the transfer. Then I purchased it from the seller. This process took 6 months, but my time involvement was minimal. I emailed the brother every month and called him when I didn't get a response.


  • Melody Rauber

    It turns out even though the wife is on the deed I still need to do an affidavit of heirship. Texas law requires it. We haven’t closed yet but I think it will be a simple task. I’ve ran into other deals I just let go of because there were way to many heirs and they couldn’t agree on anything.

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