Betty calls me because her husband, John, recently passed away and she needs help on what she should do now. We meet and I discover that John had a will leaving everything to Betty. Betty explains that their home is jointly owned as they bought it together.
After our meeting, I do further research and discover that Betty's name is NOT on the deed to their home. At the time they bought the home, only John's name was put on the deed. Why does this matter?
Because we now have to go through the probate process to transfer the home from John's name to Betty's. Clients often say...
But, they're married...
It doesn't matter that they're married. A new deed will need to be filed before the home will be transferred to Betty. But, because John is no longer around, he can't sign that new deed. So, the county will want proof that someone has the right to act as John to sign a new deed. This means a court order. The fact that John and Betty were married does not matter, the county still wants court permission for this transfer.
But there is a will...
Again, it doesn't matter. Clients often say "he had a will so shouldn't need probate." Unfortunately, this isn't the case. A Will is simply the instructions that tell a probate court what to do with your assets. Without a will, the court follows state law. If your loved one created a will, the court will order assets distributed as instructed in the will. So, if John's will gave the home to Betty, then she will be entitled to it BUT will still need to go through the time and expense of probate.
In order to avoid a surprise at the worst possible moment, take a few minutes to look at your deed, or call the county records department, and verify how your home is titled!
Minnesota Estate-Planning Lawyers
An experienced Minnesota estate-planning lawyer can help walk you through the process of establishing a custom-drafted estate plan crafted to meet the specific needs of you and your family. For more information on estate planning in Minnesota, along with a variety of other topics, contact Chris Tymchuck of Unique Estate Law at (952) 955-7623. You can also visit the Estate Planning page of our website for an explanation of our unique process and get an idea of our fees as we believe the estate planning process should be transparent.