How JustAnswer Works:

  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.

Ask socrateaser Your Own Question

socrateaser
socrateaser, Lawyer
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 34675
Experience:  Retired (mostly)
10097515
Type Your Legal Question Here...
socrateaser is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

I am trying to purchase a house from my mother. The title company

Resolved Question:

I am trying to purchase a house from my mother. The title company refused to transfer title because my deceased father's name is XXXXX XXXXX deed. Title company seems to think we need to go to probate (the will WAS entered to probate but no actions were ever taken)--which seems strange since it would appear the my Mom owns the house in entirety (so why the need for probate?). Here's what I know:

1. Parents have a joint-tenancy deed in the state of NJ.
2. Parents divorced in 1974 and judge issued decree (and we have a certified copy), stating the house transferred entirely to my mother's ownership; dad was to move out in 30 days. Mother never acted to take house from Dad (who lived there until his death and believed the divorce was never finalized).
3. Father died in 1979; his will ordered the house sold and proceeds were to divided by his kids. Obviously, the house was never sold (and was taken over by one of the do-nothing executors). All we want to do is buy this house but my Mom's lawyer is worthless (and she's 87 and has no patience for dealing with the details)...

Who really owns this house?!? How do we fix the title?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  socrateaser replied 1 year ago.
Who really owns this house?!?

A: Real property owned in a true joint tenancy (i.e., title will show something like, "Bill Seller, Grantor, hereby grants to John Doe and Jane Doe, as joint tenants with rights of survivorship, the real property herein described as follows:"), instantly transfers to the surviving joint tenant at the death of the first joint tenant. A divorce does not severe a joint tenancy and create a tenancy in common, without some express act of the parties or the court, which would be found in the divorce decree or marital settlement agreement.

Assuming a true joint tenancy, and no severance as part of the divorce judgment, then your mother owns the property outright, and no further legal action is required.

However, if the property title shows ownership as "...husband and wife," or as "tenants by the entireties," then a divorce severs the joint tenancy, and the parties become tenants in common after divorce -- which means that each party owns 50% of the property and that interest descends to that party's heirs/beneficiaries at death, and not to the surviving tenant.

Most likely, the second scenario is what has taken place with your mother's property. Otherwise, you wouldn't be asking the question, because title would have transferred without any dispute.

How do we fix the title?

A: You will need to ask the probate court to appoint a personal representative, for the sole purpose of transferring title according to the provisions of the Will.

For a competent probate attorney referral, see this link.

Hope this helps.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.

They are listed as both joint tenants AND as husband and wife on the deed (the original lawyer who looked at the deed said this was unusual). Even if the divorce severed the tenancy, the divorce judgement decreed the house transferred to my mother in the settlement. Wouldn't that mean my mother owns the house outright either way?

Expert:  socrateaser replied 1 year ago.
Listing the grantees as both joint tenants and husband and wife creates an ambiguity in the deed, making it difficult to interpret -- because the first provision states joint tenancy, while the second suggests tenancy by the entireties.

Regardless, if the divorce judgment states that ownership is vested in /transferred to your mother, then the judgment would operate as a transfer of legal title by court order, and you should be able to record a certified copy of the divorce judgment with the deed registrar/clerk to show that your mother already holds sole title to the property.

If I were a title officer, I would find that the recorded judgment closes the chain of title and vests the property entirely in your mother. Which means she can sell it to you.

If the title officer doesn't agree, then maybe you need to find a different title company. If no title company agrees, then you may be forced to sue to quiet title in your mother's name. This would be a definite pain in the a** -- but from what you've described, your father's will would have had no effect on the property, because it was not part of his estate when he died. Your mother already owned the property based on the divorce judgment.

Hope this helps.
socrateaser, Lawyer
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 34675
Experience: Retired (mostly)
socrateaser and 6 other Legal Specialists are ready to help you

JustAnswer in the News:

 
 
 
Ask-a-doc Web sites: If you've got a quick question, you can try to get an answer from sites that say they have various specialists on hand to give quick answers... Justanswer.com.
JustAnswer.com...has seen a spike since October in legal questions from readers about layoffs, unemployment and severance.
Web sites like justanswer.com/legal
...leave nothing to chance.
Traffic on JustAnswer rose 14 percent...and had nearly 400,000 page views in 30 days...inquiries related to stress, high blood pressure, drinking and heart pain jumped 33 percent.
Tory Johnson, GMA Workplace Contributor, discusses work-from-home jobs, such as JustAnswer in which verified Experts answer people’s questions.
I will tell you that...the things you have to go through to be an Expert are quite rigorous.
 
 
 

What Customers are Saying:

 
 
 
  • Mr. Kaplun clearly had an exceptional understanding of the issue and was able to explain it concisely. I would recommend JustAnswer to anyone. Great service that lives up to its promises! Gary B. Edmond, OK
< Last | Next >
  • Mr. Kaplun clearly had an exceptional understanding of the issue and was able to explain it concisely. I would recommend JustAnswer to anyone. Great service that lives up to its promises! Gary B. Edmond, OK
  • My Expert was fast and seemed to have the answer to my taser question at the tips of her fingers. Communication was excellent. I left feeling confident in her answer. Eric Redwood City, CA
  • I am very pleased with JustAnswer as a place to go for divorce or criminal law knowledge and insight. Michael Wichita, KS
  • PaulMJD helped me with questions I had regarding an urgent legal matter. His answers were excellent. Three H. Houston, TX
  • Anne was extremely helpful. Her information put me in the right direction for action that kept me legal, possible saving me a ton of money in the future. Thank you again, Anne!! Elaine Atlanta, GA
  • It worked great. I had the facts and I presented them to my ex-landlord and she folded and returned my deposit. The 50 bucks I spent with you solved my problem. Tony Apopka, FL
  • Not only did he answer my Michigan divorce question but was also able to help me out with it, too. I have since won my legal case on this matter and thank you so much for it. Lee Michigan
 
 
 

Meet The Experts:

 
 
 
  • Tina

    Lawyer

    Satisfied Customers:

    8436
    JD, BBA Over 25 years legal and business experience.
< Last | Next >
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/MU/multistatelaw/2011-11-27_173951_Tinaglamourshotworkglow102011.64x64.jpg Tina's Avatar

    Tina

    Lawyer

    Satisfied Customers:

    8436
    JD, BBA Over 25 years legal and business experience.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/RA/ratioscripta/2012-6-13_2955_foto3.64x64.jpg Ely's Avatar

    Ely

    Counselor at Law

    Satisfied Customers:

    19941
    Private practice with focus on family, criminal, PI, consumer protection, and business consultation.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/FL/FLAandNYLawyer/2012-1-27_14349_3Fotolia25855429M.64x64.jpg FiveStarLaw's Avatar

    FiveStarLaw

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    8189
    25 years of experience helping people like you.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/jespoag/2008-12-17_222355_jessepic.jpg JPEsq's Avatar

    JPEsq

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    2132
    Experience as general attorney, in house counsel, SSDI, Family Law attorney, and law professor
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/gsenmartin/2008-04-22_214950_me1.jpg Guillermo J. Senmartin, Esq.'s Avatar

    Guillermo J. Senmartin, Esq.

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    110
    7+ years of experience handling various legal matters.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/PA/PaulmoJD/2013-10-10_195858_JAImage.64x64.jpg Law Educator, Esq.'s Avatar

    Law Educator, Esq.

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    31621
    JA Mentor -Attorney Labor/employment, corporate, sports law, admiralty/maritime and civil rights law
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/dkaplun/2009-05-17_173121_headshot_1_2.jpg Dimitry K., Esq.'s Avatar

    Dimitry K., Esq.

    Attorney

    Satisfied Customers:

    15975
    Multiple jurisdictions, specialize in business/contract disputes, estate creation and administration.
 
 
 

Related Legal Questions

Chat Now With A Lawyer
socrateaser
socrateaser
Lawyer
34675 Satisfied Customers
Retired (mostly)