How to Change Title to Real Estate After a Spouse Dies
When you own real property jointly with your spouse, you have what is called a "right of survivorship." This means that title to the property automatically transfers to the surviving spouse upon the death of the first spouse.
This seems simple enough, but many people have questions about whether you have to actually do anything to document the change in ownership.
The short answer is yes, but it is only really necessary when you go to sell or transfer the property to someone else, or try to refinance the property. This is because a buyer or a lender is going to want to see clear title in your name before entering into a transaction.
It is, however, very simple. You just need to record the death certificate at the registry of deeds in the county where the property is located, along with an affidavit stating that you and the decedent were still married at the time of death (this is called an "affidavit of no divorce"). Registry staff can help make sure you file this correctly, so that it will appear on future title searches of your deed.
If you owned property jointly with someone other than a spouse, the same process will apply (except for the affidavit of no divorce) if you held the property as joint tenants. If you instead held it as tenants in common, you will have to go through the probate process to transfer title.
Learn more here about the Probate Court process in Massachusetts.
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