Inheriting a home from a loved one is bittersweet – inheriting a financial asset such as a home is always a good thing, but the loss of your loved one can cast a cloud over your good fortune. There is a surprising amount of paperwork to be completed in the aftermath of someone’s death, and one of those tasks on your to-do list is to transfer the deed into your name.
In most cases, this process should be straightforward, but it can be daunting and become complicated if you don’t know what you’re doing. The good news is this guide will take you through what you need to do to transfer a deed of a house after a death.
What is a deed of a house?
A deed of a house is a legal document that defines the owner (or owners) of a property. A deed gives the final say; it’s very difficult to dispute the name on a deed. While we often think of a deed as a document that is updated each time the house passes to a new owner, the reality is that a new deed is created each time.
Can you transfer a deed of a house?
As we touched on above, you can’t actually “transfer” a deed – a deed cannot be updated, and so you can’t pass the deed on to a new owner. What actually happens is a new deed is created and signed by the last owner, signed by the new owner, and sent to the local authority responsible for keeping records of property deeds in the area.
How do you transfer a deed of a house?
When someone passes away, the person’s assets must go through the probate process. The most common way a home is passed on to a new owner (whether inherited or sold) is to complete the probate process and then transfer the deed.
(Note for those looking to sell during probate:In Massachusetts, you can also sell a home during the probate process, provided the new homeowner will get a clean title, but it does take some extra paperwork. If you are looking to transfer a deed of a house during the probate process, see our other guide here: How to Sell a House During Probate, as it will guide you through all the additional steps.)
The personal representative of the deceased person’s estate (also known as an executor) is responsible for filing for a Deed of Distribution which will allow them to transfer the home to the person(s) inheriting the house. A new deed will need to be created, so you are legally required in Massachusetts to get an attorney involved at this stage to create it for you.
The personal representative will sign the new deed on behalf of the deceased.
Provided there are no hiccups, the process of transferring the deed should look like this:
- The personal representative creates a copy of the probated will (it’s also a good idea to have a copy of the death certificate)
- The personal representative then works with an attorney to create a new deed for the new homeowner
- They sign the deed on behalf of the deceased, and the deed is given to the new owner to sign
- The new owner signs, having the document notarized
- The deed is delivered to the county recorder, along with the probated will and death certificate (the latter two documents aren’t always necessary, but it’s better to have them available than be delayed), and any filing fees paid
Do you have to use an attorney to transfer a deed in Massachusetts?
Yes, in Massachusetts it is illegal for anyone but an attorney to practice law. While there is some wiggle room about what “practicing law” means, creating real estate contracts and deeds are best left to the professionals, otherwise you may find yourself in legal difficulty later.
Is transferring a deed easy?
Yes, transferring a deed of a house should be easy. If the probate process is not yet complete there are some more complicated and time-consuming steps, but it is still a straightforward process. Make sure you work with an attorney as they will make the process of creating a new deed as fast and easy as possible.
What happens after a deed is transferred?
Once a deed is transferred to the new owner, it is their home to do with it as they see fit. They can move in and live in the home, renovate and sell the home, sell it immediately, extend it, turn it into a Bed and Breakfast – whatever they please, provided they have the right permissions from the city.
If the new owner does decide to sell the home, whether immediately or later down the road, this process will need to be repeated for the new buyer, who will then be able to do whatever they please with the property.
Can I sell a house immediately after transferring the deed?
Provided the deed has been transferred into your name, there is absolutely no reason why you can’t sell the home immediately. We often buy homes from those who have inherited a property in Massachusetts and want to turn it into cash before it can start sapping their financial resources. Houses are always a great asset to receive, but they’re certainly not cheap to upkeep, especially older homes, as so many in Massachusetts are.
If you’ve inherited a house in Massachusetts and are thinking about selling it once the deed is in your name, we’d love to give you a no-obligation cash offer. We buy homes in Massachusetts in as-is condition for cash. “As-is” means we’re not worried about those draughty windows or outdated decor – we can even clear out the old unwanted furniture and clutter if it’s too much for you.
All you need to do is reach out to us with just a few details about the property and we’ll send you our best cash offer. If you accept, we can close in as little as 2-3 weeks, meaning you get the most from the property with the least amount of money going into it. To find out more or to get your no-obligation cash offer, click here.