Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin
Q: My husband passed away a few years ago and had a life insurance policy. When I received the proceeds from the policy, I was able to pay off our mortgage.
I never received the original deed from the mortgagee and questioning the lender gets me nowhere. I don’t know what to do to protect myself from scammers.
Why can’t I get the deed to my house? When I search online, I get websites asking me to pay for protection. And the lawyer who drafted the refinance died before my late husband died.
Is there a place where I can get a copy of my deed?
A: First, please accept our condolences for your loss. One of the reasons we recommend that spouses and partners keep a hand in managing family money is to avoid painful quests like this.
But while your search for protection hasn’t been successful so far, the good news is that you probably don’t have to worry about who owns the property. Typically, married couples own property as joint owners with the right of survivorship. With regard to the main residence, married couples will either own it as co-tenants or as full tenants.
In both cases (joint tenants with right of survivorship or rental in full), you become the sole owner of the accommodation on the death of your husband. You would not need to do anything to the title of the property for you to become the sole owner of the house. This happens automatically because of how you have chosen to hold the title.
When you bought the house, the settlement agent or seller’s attorney would have prepared the deed transferring the seller’s ownership in the house to you and your husband. This document remains in place and does not change over time, even after the death of your husband.
If you and your husband owned the house as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, you automatically and legally became the sole owner of the house upon your husband’s death. You don’t need to do anything more at this time to prove ownership.
When you decide to sell the house, you will simply need to show a copy of the death certificate to the settlement agent or title company to prove that you have become the sole owner of the house.
If you want to check, visit your local Deeds Registry Office online. If you search for the property, you should see that your name and your husband’s name are still on the title deed. This is perfectly normal. It doesn’t mean you don’t own the house on your own.
If you and your spouse had a mortgage on the property at the time of your spouse’s death, you would now be fully responsible for making those payments each month.
In most states, the mortgage lender has a lien on your home until you pay the mortgage company in full. In your situation, you paid off the mortgage lender, and the lender should have sent a discharge from the mortgage for registration or filing with the office that handles real estate papers in your county (usually the recorder of deeds).
Keep in mind that your ownership of your home is not affected by loan repayment. The loan and your ownership of the property are independent of each other.
Be aware that in some states a lender takes a deed of trust and not a mortgage as security for the loan. In general, a mortgage and deed of trust work to provide the lender with security and security for the homeowner’s loan. The only difference in the law is that the deed of trust gives the lender custody of title to the home until the loan is repaid. When a lender has a trust deed as security and the loan is repaid, the lender issues a release of the trust deed to give the owner full rights to the property.
In your situation, you just need to make sure your lender has discharged the mortgage or issued the release of the deed of trust. You would do this at the local Recorder of Deeds office. You can call them and ask if they can help you find relevant records. You might also be able to get this information online (some areas charge for access, but the cost should be minimal).
Of course, if you and your husband were not owners of the house with right of survivorship or as tenants in their entirety, this will require a series of different steps; especially if he died ab intestate, without a will. But, if that’s the case, you should find a real estate attorney or solicitor to discuss your ownership of the home, who else might now have an ownership interest, and what steps you might need to take to determine what’s going on. will then pass.
Finally, your email mentions that you are worried about being scammed. The best thing to do is to check your title from time to time, to make sure that no additional privileges have been attached to it. Also change your passwords online for two-step authentication, use a password manager, consider freezing credit from your credit reports with the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and Transunion) and never click on an email or link from someone you don’t know. Good luck.
Contact Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin through their website, BestMoneyMoves.com.